Discovering the Shapes of the Short Story
Just as the individual story placement in a collection is vitally important to comprehension of the whole (an idea sharply articulated by Suzanne Ferguson in her study of Katherine Mansfield), so is an initial discussion of shapes of the short story. From Donna Jarrell's exploration of the [novel] embedded in Eudora Welty's [June Recital,] to the [prism] effect of the elliptical short-story structure that Andrea O'Reilly Herrera reveals in Sandra Benitez's A Place Where the Sea Remembers, we see that postmodern approaches to short stories and short-story cycles illuminate underlying structure in even the most confounding forms.
Elsewhere in this section, David Sheridan's study of [alternate world fiction] of Jorge Luis Borges, Italo Calvino, and Steven Millhauser examines how postmodern literary techniques—elaboration, cataloguing, listing—help to shape these worlds. Sheridan also deals with the question of how to effectively [end] a world an author has created, a theme touched on in Arthur Brown's essay of Henry James' [The Beast in the Jungle.] Though more forthrightly realistic than Sheridan's subjects, Brown presents James' notion of an [artistic consciousness] that survives death, [a life of far greater possibilities than those any mortal life could hold.] It is this conflict between the immortality shaped by artificial fictional worlds and our conventional mortality that fuels the overall study of the shapes of the short story.
In pondering these shapes, it may be helpful to consider this thought from Brown: [the meaning of life depends on death—not to wrap things up or provide closure, so that we might walk away from life with meaning in hand—but to distinguish life itself from represented or figured or constructed life—in a word, from literature …]