Short Story Cycles

“Preposterous Adventures”: Affective Encounters in the Short Story Cycle

In lieu of an (English) abstract here are the first paragraphs:

In The Promise of Happiness, Sara Ahmed observes that hegemonic notions of happiness are associated both with a sense of belonging to a community and a sense of direction or “telos”: happiness is often figured as the “endpoint” of a unidirectional “path” (199, 32). Exposing the limitations of such paradigms, Ahmed explores other means of apprehending and defining happiness. Her model involves accepting happiness as provisional, as a feeling that “comes and goes” and is experienced in “moments” (219). If one accepts the dominant model, experience “becomes a question of following [happiness] rather than finding it” (32). This act of following requires other people, a community, that will provide narratives for the human subject seeking happiness: “If the same objects make us happy – or if we invest in the same objects as if they make us happy – then we would be directed or oriented in the same way.” If we are “affected in a good way by objects that are already evaluated as good,” this means that we become part of “an affective community” because “we align ourselves with others by investing in the same objects as the cause of happiness” (38). Happiness as thus defined, “creates its own horizon, as a horizon of likes.” However, accepting this definition carries a risk. If one embraces one’s place in this affective community, it becomes “possible to be surrounded by likes that are not your own, and by promises that haunt you in their emptiness” (76-7).

This article will examine how three twentieth-century women writers have used a particular literary form, the short story cycle, as a vehicle for challenging the norms of these “affective communities” and for dramatizing Ahmed’s model of “happiness” as something one finds for a moment, rather than something one follows. It will examine Katherine Anne Porter’s Miranda cycle (1939-44), Eudora Welty’s The Golden Apples (1949) and two cycles by Alice Munro, Lives of Girls and Women (1971) and The Beggar Maid (1978),1 focusing particularly on the “happiness” that springs from two kinds of moments that occur in these cycles: moments of potential transformation and moments of return to a site of past experience.

from: Rachel Lister, « “Preposterous Adventures”: Affective Encounters in the Short Story Cycle », Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 66 | Spring 2016, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2018, consulté le 15 juillet 2022.

Link :

Note: This is a very good article for anyone interested in the types of stories and experiences that short story cycles may be particularly suited to convey.


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