CFP Lille Conference: Short fiction writers with a theory

Call For Papers: (Deadline 1 March 2015)

Short fiction writers with a theory: re-reading short fiction theory through the lens of new writing and new media

 11-12 June 2015, Université Catholique de Lille, France

(In collaboration with the University of Angers, France and the European Network for Short Fiction Research)

We are all familiar with the writings of James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Frank O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, and Flannery O’Connor on the short story. Their fiction has often been studied through the lens of their own critical essays, now considered essential elements in the heritage of short story criticism. The history of the short story indeed resounds with authorial declarations, ranging from Poe’s “single effect” to Anthony Burgess’s declared ambivalence about the form when announcing the new Journal of the Short Story in English in 1983 (JSSE 2). Unlike the study of other genres, the theories of practitioners of short fiction appear to be intertwined with conceptual approaches to the genre. The American based Society for the Study of the Short Story was built on this very principle. The Journal of the Short Story in English has consistently placed author interviews alongside critical essays in its 30 years of existence, and Short Fiction in Theory and Practice aims to investigate new forms of critical discourse emerging in light of author/critic connections. Similarly, well-known short fiction critics such as Charles May have proposed anthologies of authorial statements, juxtaposing them with reflections on critical theory to propose a working set of texts as a foundation for short fiction study.

Today, these foundations appear to be shifting, as multiple short fiction writers, along with the possibilities offered by new media, are proposing new forms of discourse on the form. Every year essays on the craft of a writer are published; interviews, in which authors elaborate on their ideas, appear in journals, newspapers, on YouTube and on official websites. This conference is an invitation to re-investigate famous theories, while also giving voice to new, sometimes lesser-known, writers whose remarks on the genre could help us envisage new directions.

Questions asked will be the following: How have short fiction writers engaged with critical theory in the past, and how do we see the legacy of these critical writings today? How do famous essays and comments continue to exercise an influence on short fiction writers and critics? To what extent to short fiction writers attempt to construct new theories? Are new media altering the form of writers’ theories or discourse? What role, if any, does critical theory play in the practice of short fiction writing? Writers now tweet, they use Facebook as a springboard, they publish some of their works exclusively on Kindle… How do we look at short story fiction theories today in light of these developments? Are Poe’s early ideas still relevant for both the writing and reading of short fiction?

We aim to bring together writers and critics to discuss these questions. A round table discussion will also be organized to tackle new media and short fiction theories, with a particular focus on the internet forum Thresholds, the MacGuffin collaborative platform project for short fiction writers, and the academic journal Short Fiction in Theory and Practice.

We welcome proposals from short fiction writers, editors and scholars for 20 minute formal presentations or informal discussions. Papers can be proposed for publication on the Thresholds platform, in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice, and in Journal of the Short Story in English. A synthesis of the discussions will also be published on the ENSFR blog.

Please send proposals for papers or presentations to Gérald Préher:; and Michelle Ryan-Sautour :  before 1 March 2015.

Lille is easily accessible from the Paris Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport by train (about 1 hour).

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