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Chapter 5 - Virginia Woolf

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Adrian Hunter
Affiliation:
University of Stirling
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Summary

In a widely cited essay, Mary Louise Pratt argues that the relationship between the short story and the novel is not one of ‘contrasting equivalents’, but is ‘hierarchical’, ‘with the novel on top and the short story dependent’. Pratt offers both conceptual and historical justifications for this claim. The conceptual case is that ‘shortness cannot be an intrinsic property of anything, but occurs only relative to something else’. In other words, the short story is ‘short’ only by comparison to the novel. The historical argument is that the novel has prevailed because it is self-evidently ‘the more powerful and prestigious of the two genres’, with the short story functioning as a ‘training or practice ground for the apprentice novelist’. The attempts by theorists stretching back to Brander Matthews in the 1890s to identify the unique properties of the short form ought now, Pratt contends, to give way to a recognition of the ‘dependent (rather than interdependent) relation between short story and novel’.

Pratt's thesis would appear to be borne out in the careers of many twentieth-century writers for whom, as John Barth describes, a ‘pattern of working in the short story, building a reputation, and advancing to the novel’ has prevailed. What is more, the publishing industry has continued to treat the short story as a low-capital testing ground for talent that will find its full expression in longer work.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2007

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  • Virginia Woolf
  • Adrian Hunter, University of Stirling
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to the Short Story in English
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511611360.008
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  • Virginia Woolf
  • Adrian Hunter, University of Stirling
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to the Short Story in English
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511611360.008
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Virginia Woolf
  • Adrian Hunter, University of Stirling
  • Book: The Cambridge Introduction to the Short Story in English
  • Online publication: 05 June 2012
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511611360.008
Available formats
×