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1“Each day I find myself like a lonely traveler at a crossroads, standing and asking: Which way? Which way?” By these words Elizabeth Spencer brought to a close her interview at the 1992 International Symposium “Short Stories of the American South,” of which she was the Guest of Honor. The event was hosted by the Journal of the Short Story in English at the University of Angers. “Finally, you just have to choose one,” she added, “—and keep moving.” Since then, although she steadily kept moving, Spencer has never left the Journal. A glance at the JSSE index shows that her stories have been systematically discussed in our issues over the years, there are experts in her work amongst the members of the Journal’s scientific committee, and from 2014 on, her name appears on the front pages of all JSSE issues as she accepted the invitation that Linda Collinge and Emmanuel Vernadakis, at the time co-editors of the Journal, addressed to her to join the Journal’s honorary board. But then again, Spencer has been much more than a name on the Journal’s guest author list, especially with the arrival in the Journal’s editorial team of Gérald Préher, a specialist in Southern literature. Préher often discussed Spencer’s lyrical prose, the feminine creativity and freedom that marks her irony-laced stories, their aesthetic and ethic significance through the mysterious aspects of ordinary life they make us experience. So much so that these aspects reached the editorial team as—to use George Steiner’s expression—“real presences.”

2It was in this context that, in 2016, JSSE wished to devote a Special Issue to Spencer’s stories. Gérald Préher would be the Guest Editor. Spencer, whom Professor Préher knew personally and thus immediately informed, was delighted with such an initiative. For Gérald Préher, who worked steadily on the project for over two and a half years, this issue was a labor of love. He managed to bring together individual articles from most of Spencer’s experts in both Europe and the United States. Alongside the leading names in Spencer studies, prominent French academics also participated, either by name or anonymously, as reviewers. Everything was there to herald an excellent publication. Still, as the final proofs of the issue were about to be sent to the press, on December 22, 2019, “the lonely traveler” and grande dame of Southern literature passed away. The festive season was less joyous this year.

3Professor Préher decided that the structure of the volume had to be redesigned so as not to give the impression to the community that Spencer’s death has left the Journal completely unconcerned. The structure of the volume was then to be reworked to include a tribute section. In its new format, along with the articles originally included and two uncollected short stories graciously provided by Spencer herself, this issue features two interviews, and three testimonials and recollections by writers who knew Spencer well.

4As three eminent French academics, Danièle Pitavy-Souques, Claude Maisonnat and Michel Bandry, who contributed to this volume, also passed away during the same year, we have decided to dedicate this volume to all three as well. The four names, Elizabeth Spencer, Danièle Pitavy-Souques, Michel Bandry and Claude Maisonnat, placed side by side on the front page, are our way of sharing with the community of readers an experience of meeting between fiction and literary criticism that infers the necessary possibility of “real presences.”

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Emmanuel Vernadakis, « Foreword »Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 72 | Spring 2019, mis en ligne le 01 juin 2021, consulté le 18 janvier 2022. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/jsse/2451

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Emmanuel Vernadakis

JSSE Consulting Editor, University of Angers

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