Short Story Cycles

Nomadic Genres: The Case of the Short Story Cycle


The short story cycle, often relegated to the margin of literary studies, offers a pertinent example of a nomadic genre. Because it resists definition, it inhabits a liminal space straddling the short story and the novel. The fixed centrality of the novel, as a recognized and well-established genre, is upset by texts trespassing borders and resisting generic sedentariness. I propose to investigate two texts that fit this nomadic model: Jhumpa Lahiri’s Interpreter of Maladies and André Brink’s Other Lives. Both
texts use the novel as a space for their generic guerillas. My study of these two narratives focuses on the agency of genre in shaping literary texts. The role of genre starts at the threshold of the text; both covers and titles are genre signals. Genre has also a role in the marketing and consumption of literary products. What happens inside the text on the level of narrative strategies and thematic orientations is also mediated by genre. This essay will try to show that Lahiri and Brink deliberately use a nomadic and a transgressive model. Their resistance to a stable generic pattern tunes with the fluid identities and spaces they narrate. Brink narrates a post-Apartheid South African reality, an interregnum wherein the past still infiltrates the present. Lahiri recounts diasporic identities in limbo, split between longing for a lost homeland and belonging to a new cultural milieu. The two writers’ textual nomadism confirms that a wellbehaved generic paradigm cannot accommodate the stories they narrate.

from DRISS, H. B. (2018). Nomadic Genres: The Case of the Short Story Cycle. Mosaic, 51, 60.

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