Short Fiction in Short: abstracts due 15 March 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Modern Language Association (MLA), Boston 2013
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Short Fiction in Short
Boston, MA
3 - 6 January 2013

Because of meager critical attention given to the short story before 1976, Charles E. May organized a volume entitled Short Story Theories as a plea for more meaningful and substantive work on the form. As May noted with the publication of New Short Story Theories in 1994, many literary theorists and critics heeded the call, and, in fact, much work has been done on short fiction in the last twenty-five years. Nonetheless, critics still reflexively associate the novel with the United States because of form's theorization and history. As Mikhail Bakhtin has told us, the novel is, with its heteroglossia, the most democratic of genres, and as historicist critics have pointed it, the U.S. and the novel both burst onto the world stage in the late eighteenth-century. Such ideas have resulted in seminal works of literary criticism, like Leslie Fielder's and Cathy Davidson's, that offer explicit homologies between the novel and the American nation-state. Despite the elegance of these arguments, short fiction can and does have a place in literary criticism and in American literary history. This panel invites considerations of American short fiction (tales, sketches, short stories, etc) with a focus on formal distinctiveness, political use, and/or social history. How are these various forms distinguished from each other and from the novel? What makes them valid as genres? How have writers used them for political, social, or literary purposes? How have they figured in the history of the academy, of literary criticism, or in social history more broadly? All periods are welcomed.
Please send abstracts of 300 words to Lydia Fash ( by 15 March 2012.