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Title: The only voice : a creative and critical exploration of the modern short story in context, and the emergence of the author as an essential force
Author: Rutter, John
ISNI:       0000 0004 6498 0618
Awarding Body: Edge Hill University
Current Institution: Edge Hill University
Date of Award: 2017
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For a century, writers and critics have been debating the short story, yet there are few attempts at a definition beyond length and the suggestion that there is something mysterious about the form. Frank O’Connor identified loneliness as a defining characteristic in his seminal work, The Lonely Voice. I will argue that O’Connor’s idea is incomplete. I will also suggest that there is an essential influence from outside the text, specifically from the author. This thesis comprises two volumes; an original collection of short stories, Approval, and a critical analysis, The Only Voice, which focuses on the role of the author in short fiction and includes extensive interviews with four contemporary writers of short fiction. My intention is that the combination of research as a practitioner with in depth analysis of the literature and interrogation of the ideas of current writers will contribute to future discussion of the form. I will argue that the author responds to his or her circumstances, not only within a general social and political context, but in a personal and immediate way. Because the short time often taken to write the story, the author’s situation and feelings impact directly on the creative work. The author makes deliberate choices at the moment of writing about how to describe the world, and each has an unmistakable signature. I will argue that the author is very much alive and that his or her style and unique response to the world places the author at the centre of the meaning of the story. Autobiography plays a significant role in the short story either directly or indirectly. It is shown that the author’s own life and feelings are intrinsically linked to the life of the protagonist, which is largely absent from the text. Even when authors deliberately distance themselves, there are instances of their life affecting the story. New theories of memory show that a person invents a new version of their history each time. This means that the emotions of the writer of a story at the time of writing may influence the text more than had previously been thought. Since Hemingway, the idea of omission has been considered vital to understanding the short story. That which is left out is argued to be essential, and links are shown between omissions and the energy of the story. It is suggested that the implicit, that which is merely left out, is different from things that are absent, in the sense of never having existed. These absences, such as the absence of a child, impact on the story from outside the text and belong to the author as opposed to the character. The thesis concludes that each author has a unique approach to poetics, and that it is he or she that defines each story. This operates in a unique way in the short story because the author is never fully detached from the character. Universal theories cannot define the short story. Discussion, reading and practice contribute to the ongoing narrative of understanding. Each author writes in his or her individual way, influenced by their immediate concerns and contexts, and in a way that only that one person could have written. This is the author’s Only Voice.
Supervisor: Glass, Roger ; Brown, Alyson Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: PN Literature (General) ; PR English literature