The Short Story: An Introduction

By Paul March-Russell | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Experimental Text

In his essay 'The Painter of Modern Life' (1859), Charles Baudelaire defined modernity as 'the ephemeral, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art whose other half is the eternal and the immutable' (Baudelaire 1995: 12). As Chapters 9 and 10 described, modernist writers used forms such as the short story and the interlinked cycle as ways of ordering the apparent insignificance of modern life; in Georg Lukács' terms, elevating meaninglessness to the level of artistic form. The modernist aesthetic conserves notions of tradition, perspective and analysis even as it acknowledges the impossibility of objective understanding. Integral to the development of modernism, though, was an avant-garde ethos that pursued fleeting moments of subjective experience without seeking to conserve. For these writers and artists, conservation was associated with the hierarchical structures of the museum, the gallery and the mainstream press, social organisations diametrically opposed to the new arrangements of modern society. For the avant-garde, artistic institutions divided the experience of art from the experience of life. The avant-garde sought to negate the power of the institutions by producing art-works that shocked traditional criteria, which could not be displayed or reproduced conventionally, which highlighted and called into question the ruling frames of reference, and which often made use of technological methods of manufacture. In particular, as Tristan Tzara asserts in his 'Dada Manifesto' (1918), the avant-garde desired the abolition of meaning: 'precise works which will be forever misunderstood' (in Kolocotroni et al. 1998: 279). From the battle-cry of Dada to the contrasting methods of Samuel Beckett and William Burroughs, the classical avant-garde used forms, such as the fragment, the cut-up and the short fiction, in an aesthetic that ultimately resolved itself in terms of silence.

Baudelaire's prose-poems prefigure the avant-garde's need for new forms with which to express the fleetingness of existence. Like his more conventional verse, the prose poems describe what Baudelaire


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Short Story: An Introduction


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 294

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?