Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-77c89778f8-fv566 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-20T01:43:51.069Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

2 - The Short Story and the Professionalisation of English Studies

from Part I - Historicising the Short Story

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 December 2019

Adrian Hunter
Affiliation:
Senior Lecturer in English Studies at the University of Stirling
Paul Delaney
Affiliation:
Trinity College Dublin
Adrian Hunter
Affiliation:
University of Stirling
Get access

Summary

IN HIS LANDMARK STUDY OF Romantic short fiction, Tim Killick notes a tendency among scholars to read ‘backwards’ from Hawthorne and Poe, treating the decades prior to the 1840s as, at best, preparatory to the emergence of the short story as a modern literary form. The result, Killick argues, is a historical and geographical bias that neglects the polygenetic array of ‘innovative modes and sub-genres’ of shorter fiction flourishing on both sides of the Atlantic during the preceding half century. Much subsequent scholarship has taken Killick's cue, prising open the hitherto neglected history of Romantic-period short fiction. From Ian Duncan's account of short-form ‘nonnovelistic experimentation’ in the British miscellany, to Amanpal Garcha's exploration of the 1830s sketch as a radical form calibrated to the ‘newness, disconnection, and detachment’ of urban life, our understanding of the short story's beginnings has shifted backward in time, and outward in kind to embrace all manner of brief fictional texts.

Alongside this new historicist work has run a corresponding effort to overturn what Michael Collins identifies as the dominant nationalist-formalist paradigm in short story criticism. The persistence of that paradigm – which owes much to the writings of Charles E. May, Susan Lohafer and the so-called ‘new’ short story criticism of the 1980s and 1990s – has had the effect not only of distorting the historical record but of perpetuating a fundamentally Americentric view of the form. Collins's own solution is to reconfigure the early nineteenth-century short story as a phenomenon of transatlantic and transnational literary exchange. Timothy Clark goes further still, arguing for the abandonment of reading practices that inherently privilege ‘specific characteristics’ and ‘inherent properties’ conventionally associated with founding American practitioners of the short story. Clark singles out in this connection a critical over-reliance on visual analogies, ‘countervailing metaphors of sight, of the striving to “see” a text whole, the flash of revelation, etc’ – a conceptual apparatus that has its roots in Poe's ‘unity of impression’ and the notion of the short story as a ‘totality’ readily visualisable in the way the novel is not (‘a picture is at length painted which leaves in the mind of him who contemplates it with a kindred art, a sense of the fullest satisfaction’, as Poe would have it). Thus do ‘accounts of the short story per se’ proceed on the assumption, Clark says, that the form is ‘fundamentally “American” in some sense’.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2018

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

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 Dropbox.

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.

Available formats
×