Short narrative texts have a long and ancient lineage in the Western literary tradition: from ancient folk tales and myths over fables and novellas to short stories and flash fiction in recent times. Over the course of the centuries, short fictional texts have formed genres and traditions with a remarkable stability, yet at the same time they frequently have been the locus of experimentation, border crossings and generic hybridity, often in tandem with the spread of media and the development of new contexts of publication and dissemination. In modern literature, it suffices to think of the importance of short fiction for the development of fantastic literature, the illustrated prose poems of the Decadents, the short fiction experiments in early 20th-century avant-garde periodicals, or the short stories dramatized for radio in the mid-twentieth century. In recent years, the arrival of new media – websites, blogs, twitter and facebook – have similarly given rise to new experiments in short fiction. Hyper fiction, twitter fiction, microfiction, and nanofiction are only some of the forms that have been developed in response to these new media.
This special issue aims to investigate these and other short fiction experiments as they have emerged since the late nineteenth-century in different literary traditions. It will explore the formal, generic and intermedial aspects of these short fictional texts – from microfiction to the novella – and the way they create meaning. As Paul Zumthor famously argued in “Brevity as Form”, brevity is not just a matter of length. Rather it “constitutes a structuring model” in which formal constraints enable creativity and invention. One of the central questions of this issue is therefore how writers work with the limits imposed by brevity in a variety of genres and forms: from the constraints imposed on newspaper stories to the 140-character limit of the Twitter story, from the generically hybrid novella to the epigram-like microfiction, from Felix Fénéon’s faits divers to Teju Cole’s “Small Fates”. The question how short a story can possibly be has often been debated – think of Hemingway’s famous “For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn” – but has received new urgency given the many platforms for nanofiction and microfiction that have emerged in recent years. At the other end of the spectrum, the question of length is also debated with regard to the novella: what distinguishes a novella from a short story and a short novel? And how is the same story changed when its length or format is changed; when it migrates from newspaper story to novella, from serialized Twitter story to complete short story. In this and in many other instances, the contexts of publication also have an impact on short fiction experiments, as these contexts – whether magazine, newspaper, story collection, twitter feed, website or blog – shape the production and reception of short fictional texts to an arguably greater extent than in the case of the stand-alone novel and, hence, need to be taken into account in any study of short fictional texts.
We invite articles addressing these questions in different literary traditions from the late nineteenth century onwards. Articles of about 6000 to 8000 words in length can be written in both French and English. Deadline for submissions is 30 June 2018, but we would like you to get in touch with the editors with a proposal before submitting the full article. Proposals and articles should be sent to Elke D’hoker (email@example.com) and Bart Van den Bossche (firstname.lastname@example.org). The articles will be sent out for double blind peer review.