Narratives From Below: Working Class Short Fiction

Clayton, Owen (2022) Narratives From Below: Working Class Short Fiction. In: The Cambridge Companion to the American Short Story. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. ISBN UNSPECIFIED

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Narratives From Below: Working Class Short Fiction

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Abstract

With the novel’s development tied so firmly to the experience of the growing American middle class, accounting for the history of working-class life often means turning to other literary forms as subjects of analysis. The short story, in particular, has a long-standing relationship to working-class life. The precarity of the form itself serves as an apt vehicle for exploring the experience of life lived on the margins of bourgeois society. Some of the earliest accounts of transportation and indentured labor in the Americas took the form of short narratives and fragments. From the 1960s onwards with rising interest in questions of American inequality (and following the model, perhaps, of Tillie Olsen) the public began to become more interested in the work of writers from working-class backgrounds. Many, such as Raymond Carver, began to develop significant reputations primarily through their work in short fiction. Eventually, in the Reagan Era the term “Dirty Realism” was coined by Bill Buford of Granta to publicize this growing body of work by diverse individuals. This chapter considers the relationship between the short story and the experience of the social underclass. Taking its examples primarily from the middle decades of the twentieth century, the chapter also thinks through the theoretical and formal innovations of the short story in relation to class across a wider historical time frame.

Keywords:Tillie Olsen, Raymond Carver, Meridel Le Sueur, Bobbie Ann Mason, Short Stories, Short Fiction, Working class literature, American literature
Subjects:Q Linguistics, Classics and related subjects > Q320 English Literature
T Eastern, Asiatic, African, American and Australasian Languages, Literature and related subjects > T720 American Literature studies
Divisions:College of Arts > School of English & Journalism > School of English & Journalism (English)
ID Code:47005
Deposited On:25 Oct 2021 14:43

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