The Short Story: An Introduction

By Paul March-Russell | Go to book overview

8
Enclosed Readings: The Short
Story and the Academy

Dave Eggers has observed that 'there are probably over a hundred high-quality literary journals' in the United States and that 'just about every state in the union has its own journal' (Eggers 2004: vii). Despite this optimistic view, many of these journals are based in and around university campuses. There are notable exceptions, such as the long-established Paris Review and the more recent little magazine Fence, but among the titles that Eggers cites, Grand Street has ceased publication while StoryQuarterly is published through the online journal Narrative. The durability of magazines such as Callaloo often relies upon some form of academic infrastructure. Mary Rohrberger has argued that by teaching short stories on creative writing programmes, 'the university was not only hiring writers and producing writers skilled in the form but also training readers. In this way, the academy created a reading public knowledgeable in how to read a short story' (in Fallon et al. 2001: 1). Yet, Charles May has contended that 'the short story is largely scorned by agents, editors, readers, and scholars' because of the way in which it exposes 'the inauthenticity of everyday life' and discomforts 'the inadequacy of our categories of perception' (in Winther et al. 2004: 14, 24). Putting aside the validity of May's argument for one moment, there is clearly a discrepancy between his position and that of Rohrberger. May, as he has frequently done, emphasises the cultural marginalisation of the form. Rohrberger, by contrast, suggests that a reading culture has been created, initially within the university, in which the short story can be understood and appreciated. Between their respective positions lies a debate concerning the role of the academy and, as explored in the previous chapter, the legitimation of culture. This academic dispute has a practical consequence because, as Eggers continues, despite 'all that was being published, there were literary forms that were strangely

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