Loughborough University
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Time and subjectivity in contemporary short fiction

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posted on 2011-06-02, 10:01 authored by Ailsa Cox
The aesthetics of contemporary short fiction have been shaped by its ability to engage with time as a boundless process of becoming. Historically and philosophically, the emergence of the short story as a specific genre may be related to modernist concepts of time and subjectivity. 'Real' time, as it is experienced by the subject, is a flux, in which past and present co-mingle. In Bergsonian terms, an unquantifiable 'duration' 1S contrasted with Newtonian concepts of absolute time as a succession of discrete units. As Hanson has argued, narrative in the short story 1S structured by a seemingly random association of 1mages rather than linear causality. I contextualize the short story genre, historically and culturally, examining texts by George Egerton and Katherine Mansfield before moving on to the main focus of my thesis, which is texts by Alice Munro and Grace Paley. These also present a dynamic reality, within time as a continuum. However, while utilizing modernist techniques, they also subvert them, problematizing concepts of transcendence. The blurring of the boundaries between autobiographical discourse, orality and fiction is used to destabilize notions of a unified subjectivity and of fixed truth. My analysis applies Bakhtinian theories on language and subject formation to investigate this presentation of time as endless self-renewal. I also draw on Genette's narrative theory and introduce Kristevan theory to investigate the speaking subject from a psychoanalytical viewpoint, with particular reference to the gendered subject. The Bakhtinian concept of the chronotope enables the theorization of the space-time nexus as the foundation of generic specificity; I offer a generic chronotope for the short story, which is grounded in the present moment. An examination of the fiction-making process, through a discussion of my own short stories, concludes this discussion of the short story as a form of contact with undefinable reality.



  • The Arts, English and Drama


  • English and Drama


© Ailsa Cox

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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  • en

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