Call for Papers
Haunting in Short Fiction and Its Adaptations
20-21 November 2015, University of Angers, France (in collaboration with Edge Hill University, University of Leuven, University of Le Mans, and University of Nantes)
There is a long tradition of haunting in short fiction, often appearing in the form of ghost stories, folk tales, fairy tales, and legends. Short narrative indeed appears to embrace the supernatural. Elizabeth Bowen explains, for example, in the preface to A Day in the Dark and Other Stories that while she uses “the supernatural” in her short stories, she considers it “unethical’ to do so in a novel. In “The Flash of Fireflies” (1968), Nadine Gordimer similarly observes how short fiction navigates the uneasy borders of the supernatural and the rational world, explaining how “Fantasy in the hands of short story writers is so much more successful than when in the hands of novelists because it is necessary for it to hold good only for the brief illumination of the situation it dominates.”
Over the last few decades we have witnessed an expansion of the ghost figure towards a broader conceptualization and metaphorical use of “haunting” and “spectrality.” Maria del Pilar Blanco and Esther Peeren’s The Spectralities Reader: Ghosts and Haunting in Contemporary Cultural Theory (2013), attests to what some critics have identified as the “spectral turn.” These scholars explain how the concept has spread through the humanities: “In their new spectral guise, certain features of ghosts and haunting—such as their liminal position between visibility and invisibility, life and death, materiality and immateriality, and their association with powerful affects like fear and obsession—quickly came to be employed across the humanities and social sciences to theorize a variety of social, ethical, and political questions.”
Short fiction, with its predominant forms of indirection, engages openly with this widening concept of spectrality, as it highlights the effects of the implicit and metaphor, and openly experiments with the dynamics of the visible and invisible. It appears to be a particularly “haunted” form. Charles May, in I Am your Brother (2013) quotes Barry Pain’s statement about the length of the short story creating “intensity” and a “curious, haunting, and suggestive quality,” and speaks of the “tight dramatic patterning of incident” that heightens this effect. Nicholas Royle has also spoken of “spooking forms” (2004), reaching back to Poe’s famous “single effect” to reflect upon the aesthetic force of haunting in short fiction, and Ailsa Cox remarks how haunting points to “that which is hidden and obscured, as silence or ellipsis,” underlining essential characteristics of short fiction. A 2004 issue of the Oxford Literary Review was similarly devoted the “blind short story,” suggesting that which is invisible, yet present.
A sense of presence in absence is one of the central paradoxes of the concept of haunting, whether it be studied in light of Derrida’s Spectres of Marx or linked to memory and loss in trauma studies. The term “haunting” also recalls the spectral manifestations of myth in short narrative (Charles May). Contemporary practices of re-writing in short fiction similarly foster a sense of haunting, as palimpsestic, intertextual sources often lurk beneath the surface of contemporary texts. The concept of haunting and spectrality can also be linked to digital media and virtual experience, as well as the dynamics of space and place and cinematographic adaptation.
This conference proposes to study the different ways in which short fiction and its intermedial adaptations engage with the fleeting, fluctuating concept of “haunting.”
We welcome presentations that address (but are not limited to) the following aspects of haunting in short fiction:
- Haunting and the supernatural in traditional short fiction (ghost stories, folk tales and fairy tales) and in contemporary re-writings of these narratives.
- Haunting in relation to the liminal, border-crossing dimension of short fiction
- Haunting and literary theory (cf. Derrida and recent theories of spectrality)
- Haunting and stylistics (the implicit, metaphor, ellipsis…)
- Haunting and myth
- Haunting and authorial presence and identity
- Haunting and trauma theory
- Haunting in short fiction and its adaptation to the arts (cinema, graphic novels, art forms, theatre…)
- Haunting and gender
We are particularly open to studying short fiction in a transnational context. We therefore welcome proposals about haunting in short fiction written in other languages.
300-word abstracts for 20-minute papers in English or French should be sent to Michelle Ryan-Sautour (firstname.lastname@example.org); Ailsa Cox (Coxa@edgehill.ac.uk); and Elke D’hoker (email@example.com) by the 15th of May 2015. Contributors should also send a short biographical note indicating institutional affiliation. A provisional conference programme will be announced in June 2015.
Conference proceedings will be published as a special issue of the peer-reviewed journal Short Fiction in Theory and Practice: http://www.intellectbooks.co.uk/journals/view-Journal,id=196/. A selection of articles will also be published in a special section of Journal of the Short Story in English: (http://jsse.revues.org/)