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(Archived) Special issue of the JSSE on the short stories of Ron Rash

Deadline for abstract submission: 31 March 2018


Special issue of The Journal of Short Story in English on the short stories of Ron Rash

JSSE N°75 (Autumn 2020)

American poet, novelist and short story writer Ron Rash’s first published book was a collection of related short stories entitled The Night the New Jesus Fell to Earth and Other Stories from Cliffside, North Carolina (1994). In the three parts that make up that debut book, three first-person narrators, Vincent, Tracy and Randy, take turns delineating life in a small Southern town; as suggested by the collection’s title, the tone mostly is that of comedy. But Rash’s eye for place and for details that make one place unmistakable is already very sharp. His second collection, Casualties (2000), is now out of print. Most of the stories collected in it, but not all of them, were republished in Chemistry and Other Stories (2007), which contains the O. Henry Award winner, “Speckled Trout,” which eventually developed into Ron Rash’s third novel, The World Made Straight (2006). In the same collection, “Pemberton’s wife” can be read as a blueprint for Serena (2008), the novel to which Rash certainly owes much of his international acclaim. In that collection, narration floats between different voices and times, voluntarily blurring distinctions between different eras, thus conveying a somewhat paradoxical sense of changelessness. For even secluded Appalachia changes from one generation to the next, as the region transitions toward greater industrialization, modernity and the new plights that develop along with them. Rash’s 2010 collection, Burning Bright, conveys a similar effect as, without prior notice, Civil War stories—“Lincolnites” or the unorthodox “Dead Confederates”—intercross with stories of the Great Depression with “Hard Times,” or of present-day Appalachia with the title story, for instance. This device brings out the permanent features of place through history, shaping the distinctive character of Rash’s territory. For his fourth collection, Ron Rash was granted the prestigious Frank O’Connor Award and a second O. Henry Prize for “Into the Gorge.” Published in 2013, Nothing Gold Can Stay keeps weaving the same thread, though the emphasis now lies even more clearly on the ravages of meth addiction in Appalachia than it was the case in the preceding series of short stories. Rash’s fifth collection contains one of the writer’s first homages to Edward Hopper’s painting with “Night Hawks;” “The Magic Bus” foreshadows the context from which his seventh novel, The Risen (2016), sprouts. Marking a peak in Rash’s career as a short-story writer, Something Rich and Strange: Selected Stories was published in 2014, compiling stories from Rash’s five collections, reshuffled in a new order together with two new stories, “Shiloh” and “Outlaws.”

Ron Rash, who is currently working on a new collection of short stories, readily admits that the short story is his favorite form. He is especially sensitive to the creative powers of its succinctness. Furthermore, short stories offer him a middle ground in which he can fully and variedly express his talent for plot and characterization, his gift for detail and his concern with poetic sonorities.

The aim of this issue of the Journal of the Short Story in English (N°75: Autumn 2020) is to assess Ron Rash’s art as a storyteller by focusing on his collections as entities, on his stories’ structures, on their recurring themes, forms and figures, on the importance of place and on the complexities of his representations of time.

Thematic readings will be welcome as well as close readings of single stories or contributions more generally dealing with whole collections. Contributors might discuss the following topics (but, of course, these are only suggestions):

  • The writing of nature

  • Landscape as destiny

  • The permanence of place across times

  • History and stories

  • Traditions and ruptures

  • Disrupted families

  • Old age

  • Women

  • The representations of genders

  • Addictions and compulsions

  • The poetics of violence

  • Recycled materials, recurring images

  • Continuity between genres

  • Music and musicality

  • Tragicomedy

  • Intertextual references

  • Influences

  • Titles

  • Openings

  • Narrative strategies

Proposals (of 200 to 300 words) should be sent by the end of March 2018 along with a short bio-bibliography. Completed articles (not to exceed 6,000 words) must follow the MLA Style Manual and include an abstract in French (not to exceed 250 words). Submissions will be peer-reviewed and are due by January 30, 2019.

Please send all queries and proposals to the guest editor, Frédérique Spill, University of Picardy Jules Verne, Amiens, France (

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