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General Foreword

Gérald Préher, Xavier Le Brun et Emmanuel Vernadakis
p. 13-15

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1This issue of the Journal of the Short Story in English features a special and a general section. The articles included in the special section, “Borders, Intersections and Identity in the Contemporary Short Story in English” derive from a stimulating conference sponsored by the Research Project Intersections: Gender and Identity in the Short Fiction of Contemporary British Women Writers (FEDER/AEI – FEM2017-83084-P) and the Research Group Discourse and Identity (GRC2015/002, GI_1924) in affiliation with the ENSFR (European Network for Short Fiction Research). The conference, organized by the guest editors Laura Mª Lojo Rodríguez, Jorge Sacido Romero, Noemí Pereira Ares, was held at the Faculty of Philology, University of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, on 23 and 24 May 2019 and served as a springboard for the granting of a European project, Short Forms Beyond Borders (2020-1-FR01-KA103-078350) with 5 other university partners, among which Angers, one year later.

2The opening section, which includes thirteen contributions, shows that the hybridity and formal indeterminacy of the short story still accounts for the difficulty in explaining its specificity when comparing it to other narrative forms. As a result, brevity is generally considered as its main defining trait, as the guest editors explain in their introduction. Nonetheless, the articles gathered here make clear that the genre’s shortness reveals additional aspects that distinguish the short story from other literary forms in terms of characterization, theme, structure… The different contributions make it possible to consider various intersections that relate to both characters and the short form in terms of identity and gender. We are thankful to our Spanish colleagues for putting this section together, providing much food for thoughts on the interplay between genre and gender.

3The three articles that make up the general section explore stories by Stephen Crane, Malcolm Lowry and Jumpa Lahiri. Yves Carlet, in his analysis of Stephen Crane, focuses on early short fiction that helped Crane refine his art as a storyteller. He shows how The Sullivan County sketches can be read as studies in fear that stage classic American Gothic themes as they play upon overstatement and the subsequent debunking of horror—the idea of the “gothic explained” is revisited by Crane in “Four Men in a Cave,” the Poesque “The Octopush,” “A Ghoul’s Accountant,” “The Black Dog” and “Killing His Bear.” All the stories rely on humor and the grotesque—the characters are ridiculed while the readers’ reactions are constantly invalidated by the “perversely complex narrative strategies” Carlet sets out to deconstruct. Xavier Le Brun then presents a reading of Malcolm Lowry’s “The Forest Path to the Spring.” Even though the story conforms to the tropes of the pastoral, it also centers on what Le Brun calls “shared modes of consciousness and awareness to the environment, shared moments of vision,” and establishes liminal spaces between the inner and the outer, the self and the natural world. Little by little any forms of difference are dissolved—whether they have to do with self and other, subject and object. Reading the story in the light of the cognitive approaches to literature, as an example of “intermental thought” (Palmer), Le Brun demonstrates that “The Forest Path” departs from the pastoral as “[i]ndividual epiphanies of retreat into the wilderness” (Gifford) to “foreground a collective or transpersonal subject, embedded in the natural world.” In the last article, Gregory Palmerino analyzes the short story “Mrs. Sen’s,” from Jhumpa Lahiri’s 1999 Pulitzer Prize winning Interpreter of Maladies. He notes that the story follows the chiastic relationship of an eleven-year-old American boy and a Bengali immigrant, in which the pathways of childhood and adulthood, immigrant and native, crisscross between characters that are trying to navigate the vicissitudes of American culture to find a home. Again, liminality is central as the characters’ worlds keep fluctuating, thus destabilizing their very identity.

4This issue comes to an end with Elke D’hoker’s review of Emma Liggins’s The Haunted House in Women’s Ghost Stories: Gender, Space and Modernity, 1850-1945 (2020), another study that centers on liminality—as its focus is on ghost stories.

5The editorial board would like to thank all the contributors and all the readers for their submissions and continuous support. We are glad to see that even though the special section and the general section were not thought out as complementary, they end up echoing each other, confirming the idea that the short story is indeed a liminal genre as Jochen Achilles and Ina Bergman’s 2015 collection, Liminality and the Short Story: Boundary Crossings in American, Canadian and British Writing suggested.

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Gérald Préher, Xavier Le Brun et Emmanuel Vernadakis, « General Foreword »Journal of the Short Story in English, 75 | 2020, 13-15.

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Gérald Préher, Xavier Le Brun et Emmanuel Vernadakis, « General Foreword »Journal of the Short Story in English [En ligne], 75 | Autumn 2020, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2022, consulté le 12 juin 2024. URL :

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Gérald Préher

Artois University, JSSE Editor

Articles du même auteur

Xavier Le Brun

University of Angers, JSSE Associate Editor

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Emmanuel Vernadakis

University of Angers, JSSE Consulting Editor

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