Postmodern Approaches to the Short Story

By Farhat Iftekharrudin; Joseph Boyden et al. | Go to book overview

Part III
Encountering Issues of Gender and Sexuality

As we've seen in the previous section dealing with culture and diversity, communities form new and changing identities to create new order, or to preserve the remnants of a vanishing cultural identity.

Not only is it useful to explore cultures in the process of establishing these paradigms, it is also useful to cast a critical eye on the norms of established cultures in order to question, and in some cases subvert, dominant paradigms, and in so doing offer a new definition of oneself. That the terms postmodernism and feminism both feature constantly shifting definitions makes the former a natural fit for further study of the latter. The chapters featured in the following section present new ways of exploring gender and sexuality issues in the short story.

Edith Wharton's [complex sexual politics of wartime] during World War I are explored in a chapter by Mary Carney. Three Wharton stories featuring French, British, and American female protagonists, respectively, bring to light the [bittersweet paradox] of war as a liberating force in the lives of women. Arguing against [the canon of war literature] which [has long disdained women's voices,] Carney insists that [women's work was essential to the war effort,] and is therefore more than worthy of literary study.

Adrienne Gavin explores how fantasy in British short stories is an essential element in asserting a female identity. Interestingly, Gavin focuses not on obviously fantastical short stories, but on how more traditionally [realistic] writers—Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Radclyffe Hall, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jean Rhys—exploit the disconnection between reality and the more [real] fantasy lives constructed by their characters, worlds which better reflect the characters' true selves.

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