Title: On the Nature of the (Portuguese) Short Story: A Poetics of Intimacy
Authors: Van Achter, Erik #
Issue Date: 15-Jan-2010
Abstract: The study of continental Portuguese criticism on the short story has shown that it has been rather limited in quantity although the conto (literᲊo moderno) is highly esteemed in Portuguese fiction studies. Upon a close reading, and following a study of the theoretical distinction between genre and mode, the conclusion that continental Portuguese short story criticism and theory had been under the spell of Anglo American short story theory, becomes readily apparent. This influx of Anglo-American theoretical positions through the mediation of Latin American theories and due to the powerful influence of narratology in modern Portuguese Fiction studies reveals how theorists have heavily relied on later works of second wave short story criticism (1976-1989) in the Anglo-American critical tradition. This reliance carried over a fatal error, for Anglo-American criticism mistook genre for mode and ascribed a false universal nature to genre description, in part as a result of a retrospective illusion which represented Poe's critical writings on the short story as authoritative, timeless and complete. Bringing these insights, drawn from the Anglo-American tradition of short story theory and criticism, to bear upon the Portuguese short story, while taking into account both the history of the Portuguese short story and the findings of genre pragmatics, it has not proved impossible to select an appropriate literary corpus for further analysis. Using French inspired discourse analysis, clear results surfaced concerning the specific strategies utilized most frequently by the fifteen writers selected: techniques of deletion, summary, and acceleration. Surprisingly, external analepsis showed a strong presence in virtually all of the selected fictions, demonstrating a clear difference between the Portuguese short story practices and the Anglo-American theory, and thus, showing a wide gap between theory and practice in Portuguese short fiction studies. The most prominent deviating feature is that the original (oral) communication scheme of story-telling is internalized in the fiction, that is, both a narrator and narratee are present, almost bodily. The resulting strategy is one in which narrator and narratee exchange positions: the original narrator merely serves as a device to communicate the story to the reader. Besides this clearly present poetics of intimacy and the strategy of narrator turned into narratee, strong differences occurred for three specific categories which have been consistently highlighted by Portuguese theorists: the protagonist narrated time and narrated space. Moreover, the results of the analysis, in terms of these three categories, helps account for the density of the short story and suggest a suitable metaphor for the place of the (Portuguese) short story as such. Inhabiting the interstices of space, time and reality as a third term, the Portuguese short story can likewise be seen as a tertium genus: between poetry and prose.
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: TH
Appears in Collections:Non-KU Leuven Association publications
# (joint) last author

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