Short Story Cycles

Open destinies : modern American women and the short story cycle

This thesis examines the juncture between the short story cycle form and gender politics. It explores how twentieth-century women from the United States have been using the form to represent and question gender identity. The introduction outlines commentaries on the story cycle and considers definitions of the form. It includes case studies of earlier twentieth-century cycles by American women: cycles such as Mary McCarthy’s The Company She Keeps that have been passed over by critics of the form. Chapter One presents Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples as a cycle paradigm, examining conventions such as the form’s metafictional dimension and its preoccupation with communal identity. Chapter Two argues that Grace Paley’s scattered Faith narratives set a standard for more dispersed versions of the form. Chapter Three considers how Joyce Carol Oates uses the sequential cycle to represent gender identity as a social construct. Chapters Four and Five examine the macrocosmic cycles of Gloria Naylor and Louise Erdrich and consider changes in their form and gender politics. The final ‘composite’ chapters explore postmodern versions of the form such as Susan Minot’s Monkeys. The prose works of Sandra Cisneros stretch across the story cycle continuum, whilst Toni Morrison’s Paradise is universally regarded as a novel. Readings of contemporary cycles by Melissa Bank, Elissa Schappell and Emily Carter demonstrate that American women are re-invigorating the form to facilitate the plural identity of the postmodern heroine.

from Lister, Rachel (2005) Open destinies : modern American women and the short story cycle. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



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