Short Story Cycles

Locating the Short-Story Cycle

First paragraph:

During the summer of 1938, Sherwood Anderson began work on a new novel, but he was unhappy with the result. In a letter to a friend, he attributes the problem to form: “I was seeking a form that would bring me a feeling of looseness and ease. In the meantime I wrote some pretty good short stories. Suddenly I decided to go back to the Winesburg form. That is really a novel. It is a form in which I feel at ease. I invented it. It was mine” (220). According to Anderson, when Winesburg, Ohio appeared in 1919 it was a wholly new form. In the 1942 edition of his Memoirs, Anderson links his formal innovation to an idea of US nationhood: “I have even sometimes thought that the novel form does not fit an American writer, that it is a form which had been brought in. What I wanted is a new looseness; and in Winesburg I had made my own form” (289). Anderson’s disparate statements on the volume’s form—that it is and is not a novel—reveal a lack of language available to describe its seemingly unique position between novel and short story collection. Anderson’s reputation as a pioneer grew in proportion to his influence on other modernists, including most famously Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner and John Steinbeck, who would all go on to work in the genre, the short-story cycle. The short-story cycle—also often called the short story sequence, novel in stories, and composite novel—is, at its most basic, a collection of stories that are simultaneously interrelated and autonomous.1 Linking the form to the United States bolstered Anderson’s sense that creating a national literature was paramount to the artistic projects of his time and circle; this sentiment repeats throughout his essays, memoirs, and letters. It is a nice story.

from Jennifer Joan Smith, « Locating the Short-Story Cycle », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 57 | Autumn 2011, mis en ligne le 30 janvier 2014, consulté le 31 janvier 2022. 



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