Short Story Cycles

Story cycles and climate disaster: Finding alternative structures for literary realist narratives in the Anthropocene

How short story cycles about climate use the non-linear form to express the interconnectedness of human and non-human elements.

Because of its looping, non-linear structure, the short story cycle is ideally suited to capture the everyday experience of the Anthropocene, particularly as it manifests through encounters with climate disaster. The dualistic nature of the short story cycle demands that its narratives be at once self-sufficient and interrelated. Its simultaneously fragmented and unified structure has the potential to address the complex interconnections and enmeshments of human and environmental elements in the Anthropocene in ways that work to integrate the consideration of climate disasters into everyday life. A Constant Hum (2019) by Alice Bishop, Florida (2018) by Lauren Groff and How High We Go in the Dark (2022) by Sequoia Nagamatsu are all story cycles that centre, in some respects, on climate disasters. This article compares and contrasts how these authors approach disaster as a unifying theme or focus in their respective
short story cycles, exploring their use of the non-linear form to address the ways in
which disaster works to reshape landscape and identity, and express the mesh of
human/non-human interaction that typifies life in the Anthropocene.

from: Novitz, J. (2023): “Story cycles and climate disaster: Finding alternative structures for literary realist narratives in the Anthropocene” in TEXT, 27(1), 1-18.


Key points

  1. The climate crisis is not only a crisis of culture but also a crisis of imagination, as we fail to grasp its magnitude and explore alternative ways of living.
  2. Literary fiction contributes to this crisis by lacking narrative structures and language that effectively address the realities of living in the age of climate change.
  3. The story cycle, with its non-linear and non-hierarchical structure, offers an alternative form that can effectively narrate and normalize the shifting conditions of life in the Anthropocene.
  4. The works of Bishop, Groff, and Nagamatsu demonstrate the story cycle’s potential in exploring disaster, contesting human primacy, and depicting human/non-human enmeshment in the Anthropocene.

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