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13 - The Short Story in Wales: Cultivated Regionalism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 November 2016

Jane Aaron
Affiliation:
University of South Wales
Dominic Head
Affiliation:
University of Nottingham
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Summary

Wales in its entirety is not the ‘region’ to which this chapter heading refers. ‘The term “region” usually designates a patch of geography, the borders of which do not correspond to the borders of an individual country’, as Wendy Griswold puts it in her recent study of literary regionalism. Cairns Craig has pointed out in relation to Scotland that it is only from the centralized perspective of the English literary tradition that all Scottish regional fictions, dealing as they do with a diversity of Scottish geographical ‘patches’, can be seen as the product of one region, and the same is true also of Wales. Welsh short stories frequently manifest many of the features which Griswold lists as characteristic of regional writing: they too tend to focus on the representation of particularized Welsh locations, and on the nature of the human experience forged within those places by their specific history. Since at least the middle of the nineteenth century, however, regions in north, south, east and west Wales have differed markedly from one another as shifting patterns of agrarian blight, industrial development, population migrations and economic depression affected their communities. Anthologists have frequently drawn attention to the fact that Welsh short stories portray ‘not one Wales, but many’. Alun Richards introducing his Penguin anthologies stressed the distinguishing importance of ‘the varied backgrounds against which the stories are set’, and in his 1993 collection went so far as to ‘arrange them accordingly rather than in any chronological order’. More recently, other anthologists have chosen to focus on one region alone; Dewi Roberts’ Heartland (2005), for example, confines itself to tales from north-western Wales, while Lewis Davies's Urban Welsh (2005) focuses predominantly on urban south Wales.

Another feature of the Welsh short story is, however, frequently referred to by its anthologists as a characteristic element, common across its regional diversities. Introducing his Faber collection in 1959, George Ewart Evans sees the genre as having ‘flowered during a period of acute social stress’. The communities depicted, whether labouring on the green hilltops of Cardiganshire, the slate mountains of Gwynedd, or underground in the coal pits of Glamorganshire, all inspired short story writing during otherwise disastrous epochs in their history, when they faced economic collapse.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2016

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References

Aaron, Jane, ed., A View across the Valley: Short Stories by Women from Wales c.1850–1950 (Dinas Powys: Honno, 1999).
Evans, George Ewart, ed., Welsh Short Stories (London: Faber, 1959).
Jones, Gwyn, ed., Welsh Short Stories, World's Classics series (London: Oxford University Press, 1956).
Richards, Alun, ed., New Penguin Book of Welsh Short Stories (Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin, 1993)
Smith, Dai, ed., Story: The Library of Wales Short Story Anthology, 2 vols. (Cardigan: Parthian, 2014).
Williams, John, ed., Wales Half Welsh (London: Bloomsbury, 2004).

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