The Composite Novel: The Short Story Cycle in Transition
This groundbreaking study is the first to propose and support a comprehensive theory of genre for composite literary texts. Though recent criticism has used the term "short story cycle" to categorize such classic works as Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio and Sarah Orne Jewett's The Country of the Pointed Firs, until now no such name has been found to account adequately for other composite works such as William Faulkner's Go Down, Moses or Jean Toomer's Cane.
A composite novel, the authors persuasively argue, is a literary work composed of shorter texts that - though individually complete and autonomous - are interrelated in a coherent whole according to one or more organizing principles. The authors trace the 200-year history of the form, from its beginnings in the village-sketch tradition of the early nineteenth century through the experimental works of contemporary writers.
With its focus on both classic and contemporary texts, The Composite Novel provides an inclusive, multinational, and multicultural perspective that demonstrates the diversity of this long-misunderstood genre. A flexible form that welcomes multiple perspectives, the composite novel has had great appeal to writers from marginalized groups. In particular, Dunn and Morris assert the pivotal role of nineteenth-century women writers in shaping the composite novel, in sharp contrast to the linear narratives popularized by their better-known male counterparts.
To support their argument, the authors provide a bibliographic essay that traces the history of criticism on the composite novel, reflecting the puzzle that the genre posed to previous scholars. A chronological list of major composite novels and their precursors, as well as an annotated list of selected works especially representative of the genre, rounds out the study. With this comprehensive work, the composite novel receives its due as a rich and flexible genre, producing literary masterpieces that expand the limits of literature.
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