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Moving across a Century

Women’s Short Fiction from Virginia Woolf to Ali Smith


Edited By Laura Lojo Rodriguez

The difference between modernism and postmodernism has been object to constant revision from a variety of critical perspectives. The present collection of essays on women’s short fiction tackles anew this thorny distinction from the theoretical perspective sketched by psychoanalytical philosopher Slavoj Žižek. According to Žižek, modernism hints at the incompleteness of the Symbolic Order, but does so from a separate, marginal and alternative sphere of enjoyment. Postmodernism, on the contrary, exposes the fundamental inconsistency of the Symbolic Order by giving it a central place at the very core of the text. The key distinguishing feature is the mutation of the status of paternal authority throughout a century to which modernist and postmodernist texts are responsive. Starting from this theoretical premise, this volume analyses the work of five major women practitioners of the short story – Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, Elizabeth Bowen, Angela Carter, and Ali Smith – to offer fresh critical readings of canonical pieces that exhibit either a modernist or a postmodernist sensibility. The volume has, therefore, both critical and theoretical value: it redefines Woolf ’s and Mansfield’s modernist status, the transitional character of Bowen’s short stories, and the different versions of postmodernism found in the work of Carter and Smith, while, at once, contributing to the reassessment of modernism and postmodernism from a new theoretical angle. The methodological consistency of the book – half-way between collection of essays and monograph – places it at a remove from the usual collection of critical pieces from disparate perspectives around a particular issue.


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Chapter 5. Coming to Terms with Postmodern Artifi ciality: Reassessing Nature in Ali Smith’s The Whole Storyand other stories 111 - CELINA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA


CELINA SÁNCHEZ GARCÍA Chapter 5. Coming to Terms with Postmodern Artifi ciality: Reassessing Nature in Ali Smith’s The Whole Story and Other Stories Ali Smith’s collection of short fi ction The Whole Story and Other Stories seems to epitomize postmodern conceptions of literature as highly self-conscious. “In Coming to Terms with Postmodern Artifi ciality: Reassessing Nature in Ali Smith’s The Whole Story and Other Stories, I argue how Smith consciously plays with excess and metafi ction to disrupt and distort any potential meaning, which allegedly resists signifi cation. However, close examination of The Whole Stories and Other Stories brings to the fore the relevance of natural patterns pertaining to season cycles as an outstanding anal- ogy for the cyclical structure of the collection itself, thus providing an interpretative strategy which counterbalances literary excess and metafi ctional techniques, while hinting at the possibility of an essen- tial foundation. Ali Smith has proved to be a versatile writer whose literary production covers short stories, novels and drama. In all these genres, Smith displays relevant discursive features such as the dispersion and fragmentation of discourses and points of view, intertextual and metafi ctional devices which also refl ect on contemporary social and literary debates. Such an inspiring conjunction has propitiated the fact that Smith has often been labelled as a prototypically postmodernist writer. This chapter aims to refl ect on Ali Smith’s postmodernist poet- ics in the light of linguistic theories which read postmodernism as the culmination of a referentiality crisis already...

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