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Call for Articles: Special Issue of the JSSE on the short fiction of Edward P. Jones – JSSE 80 (Spring 2023)

Deadline for abstract submissions: 21 June 2021

Presentation

Edward P. Jones, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel The Known World in 2004, is also known for "his commitment to the short story, the literary genre in which he is clearly very comfortable" (Graham 2006). The Washingtonian’s two collections to date, Lost in the City (1992) and All Aunt Hagar’s Children (2006), testify to his distinctive voice and vision, and have earned him the PEN/Hemingway Award (1993) and the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction (1994) as well as the PEN/Malamud Award for excellence in the art of the short story (2010). Today Jones, who has taught creative writing at the Universities of Virginia and Maryland and at George Mason University (VA), teaches at George Washington University in D.C.

The reader is affected by the special resonance of Jones’s stories. They are set in D.C. in the 20th and 21st centuries and center on African American Washingtonians, most of them originally from the South. The city in which the characters live, one of neighborhoods rather than monuments and museums, and the focus on day-to-day experience, creates an intimacy with the text. And, as Neely Tucker has pointed out, Lost in the City and All Aunt Hagar’s Children echo one another: "There are fourteen stories in Lost, ordered from the youngest to the oldest character, and there are fourteen stories in Hagar’s, also ordered from the youngest to the oldest character. The first story in the first book is connected to the first story in the second book, and so on. To get the full history of the characters, one must read the first story in each book, then go to the second story in each, and so on" (cited in Wood 51). Jones presents a complex world – he often "alternate[s] between back story and front story" (Graham 2008), delving into the misdeeds of the seemingly good and casting a gentler light on unsympathetic characters. He digresses or effects deictic shifts to provide unexpected information – abrupt shifts beyond the story being narrated, which, as Christopher Gonzalez notes, "broaden the storyworld in which his characters reside, so that each individual story, while tightly yoked to each of the others, also pushes against and extends the spatial and temporal boundaries set by the story cycles in their entirety (Wood 201). Moreover, Jones’s otherwise simple style, which integrates southern folk expressions, can be haunting. It was inspired, he says, by the Bible: "I was moved by the poetry but it also occurred to me that the world of those people had come through clearly and movingly even though the various writers had told the Biblical stories in an almost reportorial fashion – no overwhelming, intrusive emotional insertions" (cited in Wood 29).

In the growing body of commentary on Jones, a special issue on his short stories should find a place of choice. Jones, who turns 70 this year, has been the subject of many interviews and articles. Among others, the JSSE published Daniel Davis Wood’s article "To See the Lives of Others Through the Eyes of God: The Affectivity of Literary Aesthetics in the Short Stories of Edward P. Jones" in 2016, and most recently, Jones’s work was discussed on p.1 of the New York Times Book Review, in A.O. Scott’s series "The Americans" ("Edward P. Jones’s Carefully Quantified Literary World", August 16th, 2020). Wood edited a collection of critical essays on Jones’s complete oeuvre, Edward P. Jones: New Essays, in 2011, and James W. Coleman published Understanding Edward P. Jones, on his life and work, in 2016. Although there has been one M.A. thesis on Jones’s short stories, Richard Kermond’s "Evil and Suffering in the Short Stories of Edward P. Jones" (2010), no other volume exclusively devoted to his short fiction has been published so far.

The aim of this issue of the Journal of the Short Story in English (N°80, Spring 2023) is to further the critical appreciation of Jones’s art by laying stress on his imaginative and transformative power. We will apply to his short stories his statement about Alice Walker’s "The Flowers" – "In the end, I say simply, a story should be about some change, large or small, in the universe of a person or people" (cited in Wood 36) – and concentrate on instances of change. The questions of how Jones’s cycles, and individual stories, thematically and stylistically illustrate personal and historical change, as well as of Jones’s creative license with facts, will be broached. Conversely, the issue will explore the effect of recurrences in forms, figures, and settings, and the nature of Jones’s authorial voice.

Expected proposals

Topics contributors might discuss include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • History and creation

  • Renewing the Southern tradition

  • Fate and its twists

  • Capitalism and progress

  • Work and dreams

  • Authority and rebellion

  • Mothers and children

  • Lovers and spouses

  • Peer groups, cronies, friends

  • Detail and essence

  • The fleeting and the lasting

  • The poetry of the everyday

  • The city

  • Nature

  • The uncanny and the supernatural

  • Humor and tragedy

  • Goodwill and indifference

  • Ineffectiveness and agency

  • Hesitancy and eloquence

  • Variety and repetition

  • Redemption

  • Endings

Queries and proposals

Proposals of approximately 300 words should be sent by June 21, 2021 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 31 January, 2022.

Please send all queries and proposals to the guest editor, Amélie Moisy, Université Paris Est Créteil, Créteil, France (moisy@u-pec.fr).

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