The Postmodern Short Story: Forms and Issues

The Postmodern Short Story: Forms and Issues

The Postmodern Short Story: Forms and Issues

The Postmodern Short Story: Forms and Issues


Short stories are usually defined in terms of characteristics of modernism, in which the story begins in the middle, develops according to a truncated plot, and ends with an epiphany. This approach tends to ignore postmodernism, a movement often characterized by a negation of objective reality where plots are seemingly abandoned, surfaces are extraordinary, and symbols turn inward on themselves. This book examines postmodern forms and characteristic themes by analyzing a group of short stories that make use of postmodern narrative strategies, including nonfictional fiction, gender profiling, and death as an image.

The volume begins with a discussion of the blurred lines between fiction and nonfiction in the short story and imaginative personal essay. It then looks at the role of women in works by such authors as Sandra Cisneros, Leslie Marmon Silko, Joyce Carol Oates, and Lorrie Moore. This is followed by a section of chapters on postmodern masculinity and short fiction. The next section focuses on death as an image and theme in works by Richard Ford, Richard Brautigan, and James Joyce. The final set of chapters considers postmodern short fiction from South Africa and Canada.


Sociopolitical changes in the middle of the twentieth century provided the impetus for the emergence of an assortment of philosophical statements gathered together under the rubric "postmodernism." The affluence that followed World War II, causing the Western societies to become the power centers of the world, gave rise to rigid standards of conformity, technological advances, and a global economy by means of which the West sought social, cultural, philosophical, economic, and political conformity. Standardization was given priority over multiplicity until the demands of Western society came to dominate the world, overtly overshadowing the less affluent nations.

As modernism itself was a movement counter to Romanticism and a revolt against the prudishness of the Victorian period, postmodernism is a challenge to the rigidity of form, systems, and codes imposed by modernism. Postmodernism challenged existing modes of thought, economic ideology, and political assertions. The whole notion that modernity reflected the "real" was subject to investigation, which led to a new worldview—that oppressive modern conditions existed as a result of linguistic control and an adherence to a biased world history.

In The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge (1984), JeanFrancois Lyotard states that "the games of scientific knowledge became the games of the rich, in which whoever is wealthiest has the best chance of being right" (45). Thus, in the capitalistic modern world, cognition rather than acquisition becomes a commercial affirmation. That is, the financial ability to provide or acquire is the litmus test for cognitive legitimacy in the modern world. Lyotard asserts that . . .

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