“This problematizing of textual unity within the short-story cycle revolutionized the novel, the short story, and American letters in the twentieth century. The absence of textual harmony in the cycle initiated new, pervasive narrative techniques and interests. The cycle’s privileging of openness and cyclicality over closure and teleology depicts the construction of contingent, provisional identities. Because a story represents only one moment in a sequence of moments, the construction of identity in the cycle is dynamic and resists static fixity. For these reasons, it has been an ideal form for portraying ethnic, racial, and regional identities, which so often treat the conflicts between autonomy and belonging.”
– from ONE STORY, MANY VOICES: PROBLEMS OF UNITY IN THE SHORT-STORY CYCLE, a PhD thesis by Jennifer J. Smith (2011) [emphasis mine]
To the point, I think. And a guiding star for my own writing, I wish.
From an Open Edition Journals Roundtable discussion:
“Part of what I think Lynch is pointing to is that where the novel (particularly the bildungsroman form) constructs sense of self as made over time, short story or short story cycles seem in some ways to capture the fragmented nature of the experience of selfhood. My question is whether this is a representational aesthetic strategy that mirrors a changed and changing sense of “self” or “subject,” or whether as some critics have argued (Deidre Lynch’s Economy of Character comes to mind), the novel itself as a genre helped to create a particular experience of interior self as “character” under a particular socio-economic regime? In that case, are we perhaps pointing to the short story (that is, the modernist short story) as likewise contributing to construct a more fragmented, epiphanic sense of self and of character under a changed socio-economic and political regime? A “novel” like James Joyce’s Ulysses or Virginia Woolf’s The Waves could in this frame also be read as likewise contributing to that fragmented, “kaleidoscopic arrangement” that Lynch suggests “unfold[s] unfamiliarly in the minds of readers accustomed to the pace and panorama of novels.” Perhaps the “novel” we have in mind here is more akin to the high realist nineteenth-century novel, rather than some of the early twentieth-century experiments.”
Check out the whole discussion here – but beware: It’s pretty deep stuff!