Escalations : stories
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] The stories in "Escalations" cover a range of formal and dramatic content and operate on a sliding scale with regards to realism and surrealism: a woman waits in the darkness of her home for her husband, gun in hand, to investigate a potential break-in; a distracted husband realizes he has mistakenly returned from the grocery store with a woman who is not his wife; a small town's peacetime celebration leads to a disastrous dove infestation. Other stories foreground the manner of their telling: a surveillance team is contracted to follow a mysterious woman, only to find their desire for explanation and discovery delayed and thwarted; a middle-aged man's heroic rescue of a drowning child is ignored by the pool-side audience's criticism of his technique. Regardless the material or the narrative approach to the material, each story explores the conflicts that arise as characters navigate the tumultuous co-existence of both a private and public life. My critical introduction, "Missing Persons: Character Reduction and Recalcitrance in the Short Story," argues that a study of the concept of character in the short story distinguishes key issues of narrative ideology and craft that must be considered if one is to accept the short story on its own terms. Borrowing Austin M. Wright's term for how a work's material resists the shaping influence of its form, and extending his scope beyond issues of structure and closure, I propose that the short story demonstrates significant recalcitrance when it comes to the "visibility" of character. In the same way that a literary work becomes trivial when its form is entirely perceived, so do characters lose their vitality and mystery when they are completely understood. My critical introduction will examine the ways in which the short story limits, delays, and obscures the exposure of its characters as a method of productive resistance. It will ultimately argue that when character “visibility” and exposure is reduced or diminished, the character is more defined by the situation in which they are read than by our knowledge and understanding of them as individuals.
Access to files is limited to the University of Missouri--Columbia.