‘Hope’ is the thing with stories : attending the critical and creative potentialities of the short story genre

Metcalfe , Anna (2016) ‘Hope’ is the thing with stories : attending the critical and creative potentialities of the short story genre. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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Abstract

The short story is often characterised as a form best suited to the expression of disconnectedness,
fragmentation or, as Michael Trussler has it, the ‘melancholy moment’. A rhetoric
of pathology and ‘deathliness' pervades this critical field. This thesis seeks to overturn the
apparent negativity of these assumptions and reposition the short story as a form that can
encompass the tensions between death and life, between mortality and natality. Where
others conceptualise the short story as the ‘unrealizable element contained within the unrepeatable
conditions that form its own passing’ (Trussler), I look to these elements and
conditions as expressions of contingency. Where the ‘unrepeatable’ becomes a source of
trauma, I seek to position the unpredictable as a source of hope: dangerous, yes, but not
melancholic.
Arendt, as the great political and philosophical theorist of natality, provides the theoretical
backbone for my argument. Where she writes that ‘Man is put into a world of change and
movement as a new beginning because he knows that he has a beginning and will have an
end; he even knows that his beginning is the beginning of his end’ she gives us a temporality
whereby our human natality (birth) allows for other forms of natality in the radically
new, the unforeseeable, the unexpected. She writes, in The Human Condition, ‘with each
birth something uniquely new comes into the world’ which enables, paradoxically, the idea
that ‘the unexpected can be expected’ from each unique being.
Close reading stories by Katherine Mansfield, Grace Paley and Ali Smith, this thesis
demonstrates how character, genre and form can embody, describe and perform a philosophical
attitude that allows for hopefulness in contingency.
With this model of hopeful contingency in view, I then present my own collection of short
stories as further potentialities of the form.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Literature and Creative Writing
Depositing User: Jackie Webb
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2016 14:59
Last Modified: 22 Aug 2017 10:34
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/60785
DOI:

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