ENSFR Annual Conference — Manchester October 23-25, 2023: Short Fiction: Landscape and Temporality

In The Country and The City (1973) the Welsh cultural theorist Raymond Williams wrote that the landscapes of the country are associated ‘with the idea of a natural way of life: of peace, innocence, and simple virtue’, whereas, city is associated with ‘the idea of an achieved centre: of learning, communication, light (p.1. 1973). Williams goes on to claim that ‘powerful hostile associations’ have developed between the city and country, with the ‘city as a place of noise, worldliness and ambition’ and ‘the country as a place of backwardness, ignorance, limitation’ and that the ‘contrast between country and city’ is a ‘fundamental’ approach to literary representations to these different landscapes. (p.1. 1973). This conference will aim to consider the work that short story writers have done in supporting, disputing and subverting these claims in their depictions of landscapes. It will aim to consider a plethora of landscapes including, but not limited to, rural, urban, barren, populated, cosmopolitan, pastoral, flourishing, dying, futuristic, ancient, native, foreign, hostile, welcoming.

The other strand of short fiction writing that this conference will consider is depictions of temporality. Michael Trussler, in his paper in Contemporary Literature, writes that ‘short stories seem particularly concerned with investigating the nature of temporality. An elemental human experience is the chronological progression of time; we respond to this rudimentary condition by essentially narrativizing this process through linking events into a continuous series. Short stories intimate, however, that translating events into a continuum potentially reduces the ‘meaning’ of an event to its relative significance within an ongoing series. Opposed to synoptic assimilation (the method most historians and novelists favour), short stories maintain that the narratives we tell ourselves often mask the incongruities of existential temporality’ (p.599-600, 2002). This conference will aim to consider the relationship that the short story form has in its depictions of temporality and ask does the short story form do things uniquely, that other literary forms don’t do, in its depiction of temporality.

This conference will also engage with Mikhail M. Bakhtin’s concept of the chronotope. In The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, Bakhtin defines a chronotope as ‘time space’, which allows literary critics to analyse how the ‘intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships’ is ‘artistically represented in literature’ (p.84. 1981). Bakhtin goes on to state that in a chronotope, ‘Time […] thickens […and] becomes artistically visible’, and space becomes ‘charged and responsive to the movements of time, plot and history’ (p.250. 1981.) We aim to bring together scholars with an interest in examining these tensions and the different ways in which short story depicts landscapes and temporality. The conference’s goal is not to look at the short form in antagonism to other literary forms, but rather, we invite papers that cross-examine the marginal spaces that short fiction occupies and the intersections between landscape and temporality, that the short story form can shine a light upon.

Considering the diversity that characterises the many genres of short fiction, the topics we hope to explore in the ENSFR Conference of 2023 through the theme of ‘Short Fiction: Landscape and Temporality’ include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Micro and flash fiction and exploration of temporality.
  • Short fiction connected with dying, ruined or apocalyptic landscapes.
  • Short fiction associated with flourishing, populated and harmonious landscapes.
  • The multiple narratives of the short story cycle and how it allows for the exploration of multiple chronologies in one collection.
  • The peculiar temporal structure of periodicals (periodicity, repetition-with-variation, novelty and the now) as a medium or publication format that has for many centuries been closely bound up with the fate of the short story.
  • The highly charged temporal frames and landscapes of the ghost story.
  • Different approaches to temporality in the short form.
  • Short fiction’s depiction of landscape absent of humans, as either redemptive or pessimistic of humans?
  • The short story and alien landscapes.
  • The intersection between the short story and the novella and its exploration of longer temporalities.
  • Depictions of landscapes that dispute or break down the dichotomies of urban/rural; cosmopolitan/backward; worldliness/limitation.
  • Depictions of rural landscapes and their associations with the pastoral.
  • Depictions of urban landscapes and their associations with the cosmopolitan.
  • The short story collection/cycle and its representation of different temporalities and/or different landscapes in one collection.
  • Short collections/cycles/anthologies focused in one geographical location/landscape.
  • The ‘affordances’ of brevity in short story form and the extent to which this is reflected in theories of the genre.


Proposals of approximately 300 words for presentations in English, Spanish or French — alongside a short biographical note (100 words) — should be sent to ENSFR2023@outlook.com by June 5th 2023.

We welcome interdisciplinary and creative/critical presentations by short fiction writers. We also encourage short fiction contributions for reading events. Proposals from students and early-career researchers are especially encouraged. A selection of articles based on papers from the conference will be published in Short Fiction in Theory and Practice and in Journal of the Short Story in English.

The 2023 ENSFR Conference will take place in-person at the University of Manchester in the Ellen Wilkinson building on the 23—25 of October.

Organizers: Ailsa Cox (Edge Hill University), Elke D’hoker (KU Leuven), Michelle Ryan (Université d’Angers), Paul Knowles (University of Manchester) and Thomas Grocott (University of Manchester).

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