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 at the cross-examination of the marginal spaces that short fiction occupies and the intersections between landscape and temporality, that the short story form can shine a light upon.
This event is being supported by CDIRAL.