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The Short Story's Global Dimensions

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Organizer: Gavin Jones

Co-Organizer: Michael Collins

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The genre of the short story can seem compounded into a national narrative of emergence, theorization, and outsized importance in the United States. As Michael Collins has noted, the formal closure of the short story as described by “Short Story Theory” has served as an aesthetically-potent metaphor for the development of a unique and distinctive national culture, while the form’s reliance on epiphanic moments seemingly dramatized the revolutionary rupture that established the US political scene. Yet from its inception, the short story was an item of global commerce, as Washington Irving re-modeled German folk tales into the “native” material of the Hudson Valley, or as Edgar Allan Poe’s tales impacted the emergent modernism of Charles Baudelaire, to offer obvious examples. Our seminar calls for papers that recognize the extreme mobility, diversity, and contingency of the short story as a genre of transcultural movement and refiguration. Transcending the rigid concept of influence, we encourage work that explores the intersectionality of the short story, its anti-essentialist orientation (even as short story theory has been doomed by the essentialism of genre criticism itself), and its capacity to move across dividing lines, whether they are cultural, temporal, national, generic, or media-driven. We may be interested in the American short story’s global passages, but more important to this seminar is scholarship from any comparative perspective (and any period) that stresses diverse -- even “weak” -- theories of the genre through attention to how the short story behaves, across time, space, and media, rather than what it supposedly "is" as a form. Hence we also encourage work that seeks either to embed or displace the short story within critical contexts or theoretical methodologies, whether or not they are nationally inflected. In this regard, then, the panel has a broader aim: to consider how the nature of comparativist scholarship itself changes when it confronts a genre whose purportedly minor status challenges the world-building, colonizing claims of the novel.

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