Short Story Cycles


On this page I will collect some of the most illuminating definitions (and discussions of definitions) of the short story cycle …

Distinctions between Short Story Cycle, Sequence and Composite

“To the name coined by Ingram, Short Story Cycle, Luscher prefers the term Short Story Sequence, and Lundén (1999) the term Short Story Composite; and in fact, there was a proliferation of other names in American theory … Pacht warns of the level problem presented by the notions of cycle and sequence. The first implies the second, but not vice versa. There are sequences that are not cyclical, the linear ones, but there is no cycle that is not sequential. Therefore, the notion of sequence, when it comes to a set of texts arranged consecutively in the support, is not specific. A miscellaneous anthology should also be included. On the other hand, the term Composite seems to cover more and better describe the object of study, although its use did not prosper in later theoretical production. With it, a structure of aggregate or assembly is described, not a functioning; therefore, it is more generalizing. This is how a collection is composed of a set of texts, which, before reading, can function as a linear or cyclical sequence; and in many other ways. However, Short Story Cycle is the name that has been established in academic use since then.”

Source: Matelo, G. (2015). Literatura discontinua: la colección de textos y sus tensiones con elsoporte y los habitus de lectura. Tesis de posgrado. Universidad Nacional de La Plata. Facultad de Humanidades y Ciencias de la Educación. En Memoria Académica. (Translated from Spanish)

Michelle Pacht’s Literal Interpretation of Circularity 

“Because this sort of text [the short story cycle] requires the reader to ‘construct a network of associations that binds the stories together and lends them cumulative thematic impact’ (Luscher, 149), its true purpose becomes clear only after reading it in its entirety. Each story’s significance within the larger framework of the cycle shifts with each subsequent story, therefore one must read the text through to the end and then start over at the beginning in order to fully understand its meaning.” (2) (…) “This required work supports the use of the word cycle in the genre’s appellation (over, say, sequence), since the reader must first complete the text and then circle back to the beginning and read it again in order to fully understand its purpose.”

Source: Pacht, Michelle (2009), The Subversive Storyteller: The Short Story Cycle and the Politics of Identity in America, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, p. 137.