Open destinies : modern American women and the short story cycle
This thesis examines the juncture between the short story cycle form and gender
politics. It explores how twentieth-century women from the United States have been
using the form to represent and question gender identity. The introduction outlines
commentaries on the story cycle and considers definitions of the form. It includes case
studies of earlier twentieth-century cycles by American women: cycles such as Mary
McCarthy's The Company She Keeps that have been passed over by critics of the form.
Chapter One presents Eudora Welty's The Golden Apples as a cycle paradigm,
examining conventions such as the form's metafictional dimension and its
preoccupation with communal identity. Chapter Two argues that Grace Paley's
scattered Faith narratives set a standard for more dispersed versions of the form.
Chapter Three considers how Joyce Carol Oates uses the sequential cycle to represent
gender identity as a social construct. Chapters Four and Five examine the macrocosmic
cycles of Gloria Naylor and Louise Erdrich and consider changes in their form and
gender politics. The final `composite' chapters explore postmodern versions of the form
such as Susan Minot's Monkeys. The prose works of Sandra Cisneros stretch across the
story cycle continuum, whilst Toni Morrison's Paradise is universally regarded as a
novel. Readings of contemporary cycles by Melissa Bank, Elissa Schappell and Emily
Carter demonstrate that American women are re-invigorating the form to facilitate the
plural identity of the postmodern heroine.