Essay about The Difference Between a Short Story and a Novel

Essay about The Difference Between a Short Story and a Novel

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In discussing generic conventions with regard to Winesburg, Ohio and the short story cycle, it might be appropriate to first delineate the boundaries of what is nominally considered the short story sequence and note its place in relation to more conventional novels. The overriding question in rendering this distinction, of course, is the preliminary consideration of whether Winesburg should properly be categorized as a novel; that is, at which point does a collection of short stories achieve sufficient narrative or thematic coherence to impinge on the novel form and whether it would be profitable or possible in the first place to clearly demarcate this boundary. The answer to the latter question, of course, is that such genre distinctions tend toward semantic exercises, whose value, if not entirely valueless, is diminished in the face of an individual work’s more immediate aesthetic merits. While one might be hesitant to speak of an established and sustained tradition of short story cycles, early examples of linked narratives, while not nearly equivalent in terms of deliberateness of design, might include Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Boccaccio’s Decameron and The Thousand and One Arabian Nights. Anderson’s Winesburg and Joyce’s Dubliners, however, are considered the prototypes of the modern short story cycle as a distinct extension and innovation of the novel form. The novel itself, as has been noted, is an evolutionary genre defined mostly for its own innovative mutability rather than any invariable literary practices – thus, in a certain sense, we may consider the short story sequence and its associated fragmentation of experience and narrative perception as simply the most recent transformative development in the novel. Ye...


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... the conventions of the short story cycle into the extended medium of the novel; the deconstruction of perceptive is thoroughly consistent with the experience of modernity, the end of communality and an increasingly individual, internalized encounter with the conditions of reality.


[1] Kennedy, J. Gerald, Modern American Short Story Sequences, (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1995): ix

[2] Another description is provided by James Nagel: the short story cycle necessarily implies “that each contributing unit of the work be an independent narrative episode, and that there be some principle of unification that gives structure, movement, and thematic development to the whole.”

[3] Yingling, Thomas, “Winesburg, Ohio and the End of Collective Experience,” New Essays on Winesburg Ohio, Ed. John W. Crowley, (Cambridge; Cambridge University Press, 1990): 125

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