Short Story Cycles

Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts. The Short Story Collection in a Comparative Perspective

An introduction to theoretical perspectives on the short story cycle in the English, French and Italian traditions.

[Abstract:] This issue aims to map and critically assess different theoretical approaches to the interlinking of short stories in a collection. Within the Anglo-American critical tradition, the dominant critical frame is that of the short story cycle, while in the Francophone tradition, the short story cycle has been linked to a broader variety of genres and forms of textual organization. In yet other contexts, such as Italian semiotics, short story collections have been analysed as “macrotexts” (macrotesto). These different traditions, however, find themselves faced with similar issues such as the tension between unity and diversity; the link with magazine publication and serialisation; the relation between formal features and interpretation; the generic status of the short story cycle/collection and its relation to the novel on the one hand, and the short story on the other. The different articles in this issue address these questions through theoretical reflection and/or through the exploration of concrete case studies from different literary traditions.

Some key points

  • Although circularity is not a necessary characteristic, the term “short story cycle” has gained popularity in the Anglo-American tradition. However, the short story cycle is not limited to the English-language tradition, as other literary traditions have their own histories and theories related to the short story and short story collections.
  • Throughout the text, the importance of reader experience, interlinking of texts, and interpretation is emphasized. These elements play a crucial role in understanding and theorizing the short story cycle and the literary collection in different traditions.
  • Another point of discussion is the distinction between a formalist or structuralist approach and a reader-oriented approach to the story collection. The former focuses on the architecture and formal features of the collection, while the latter emphasizes the interpretation of links between texts and the elements of fragmentation experienced during the reading process. However, these approaches are not fundamentally opposed to each other, as they both examine elements such as recurring characters, settings, themes, and the tension between closure and openness.


Elke D’hoker & Bart Van den Bossche (2014): “Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts. The Short Story Collection in a Comparative Perspective” in Interférences littéraires/Literaire interferenties, February 2014, 12, “Cycles, Recueils, Macrotexts: The Short Story Collection in Theory and Practice”, Elke D’hoker & Bart Van den Bossche (eds.), 7-17

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This is an introduction to a special issue of the journal dedicated to short story cycles.

There’s a lot to digest in this introduction, which also is a condensed version of the history of short story cycle studies in the Anglo-, French and Italian traditions, so I have deliberately amended the ‘key points’ section to “Some Key Points” that I thought were particularly interesting but not necessarily representative of the whole article.


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