Call for Abstracts (December 1, 2013): Critical Insights: The American Short Story (collection of essays)

full name / name of organization: 
Michael Cocchiarale, Widener University; Scott D. Emmert, University of Wisconsin--Fox Valley
contact email: 
mfcocchiarale@mail.widener.edu; scott.emmert@uwc.edu

Critical Insights: The American Short Story (Grey House Publishing)

The American short story always seems to be a genre in crisis. Today, with the exception of The New Yorker, popular magazines no longer include short stories on a regular basis. Publishing houses do not actively seek collections of short fiction because they lack commercial appeal. Critics routinely praise story collections but far too often dismiss them for lacking the heft and ambition of novels. And yet, from the amazing proliferation of MFA programs and literary magazines (both print and online) in the last twenty years, one might conclude that the short story is more popular than ever. Certainly, as evidenced by the regular publication of brick-thick anthologies and the annual Best American Short Stories, teachers and students remain keenly interested in the genre. Since its inception in the early nineteenth century, in fact, the short story has always appealed to readers hungry for vivid, tightly written narratives that reveal profound truths about who we are.

The volume editors, who produced the scholarly collections Upon Further Review: Sports and American Literature (Praeger, 2004) and Critical Insights: American Sports Fiction (Salem, 2013), seek a variety of essays on classic and contemporary works/writers of American short fiction that will help reinforce the importance of this literary genre. The short story is, of course, an international art form, with important antecedents dating back to ancient times. However, the editors agree with critic Alfred Bendixen that “[t]he short story is an American invention” and therefore deserving of special attention.

The editors define American fiction as work produced by writers who were born in the United States, have made the United States home in a substantial and continuous way, and/or have published stories featuring American characters and settings.

The editors seek two kinds of essays:

Four specially focused 4000-5000-word chapters:
1. 4000-5000 word introductory cultural/historical context chapter that addresses the development of the American short story across different time periods and cultures, as well as what makes the American short story relevant to a contemporary audience.
2. 4000-5000 word introductory compare/contrast chapter that offers a comparative analysis of the American short story across two or three different works that embody the theme.
3. 4000-5000 word introductory critical reception chapter that surveys major pieces of criticism on the American short story and the major concerns of critics over the years.
4. 4000-5000 word introductory critical lens chapter that offers a close reading of a story or stories from a particular critical standpoint.

Ten general 5000 word chapters that focus on the works of writers throughout American literary history.

Possible authors include (but of course are not limited to): Washington Irving, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Ambrose Bierce, Kate Chopin, Charles Chesnutt, Rebecca Harding Davis, Sarah Orne Jewett, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Stephen Crane, Edith Wharton, Henry James, Jack London, Willa Cather, Jean Toomer, Katherine Anne Porter, Ernest Hemingway, William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Kay Boyle, Langston Hughes, James Baldwin, John Cheever, Flannery O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, Andre Dubus, Donald Barthelme, Cynthia Ozick, Joyce Carol Oates, Thomas McGuane, Alice Walker, Tobias Wolff, Louise Erdrich, Tim O’Brien, Charles Baxter, T. C. Boyle, John Edgar Wideman, Sandra Cisneros, Richard Ford, Grace Paley, Lorrie Moore, Annie Proulx, Gish Jen, Denis Johnson, Jhumpa Lahiri, Ron Rash, Amy Tan, Sherman Alexie, George Saunders, Lydia Davis, and Karen Russell.

The editors are especially interested in essays that examine 1) classic stories/writers in surprising new ways, 2) recent or understudied stories/writers, and 3) exciting but underappreciated subgenres such as flash fiction and the short story cycle/sequence.

The audience for this volume is advanced high school students and undergraduates. Chapters should provide a comprehensive introduction or starting point for a single work or group of works that these students may encounter, discuss, and study in their literature classrooms.

Please submit abstracts of 500 words to Michael Cocchiarale (mfcocchiarale@mail.widener.edu) AND Scott D. Emmert (scott.emmert@uwc.edu) by December 1, 2013. Abstracts should be accompanied by a short biography. Notification of acceptance will be given by December 15, 2013. Completed chapters will be due by April 1, 2014.

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