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The British Short Story of the First World War: Form, Function, and Canonisation



This thesis provides an overview of British short stories of and about the First World War from 1914 to the present day, with a particular focus on popular magazine fiction. The central question addressed is why a genre as prolific and as widely read as the short story of the First World War did not become part of the war’s literary canon. A further subject of investigation is the question of how the formal and thematic features of the short story genre on the one hand, and the war as a topic on the other, affect processes of canonisation. The thesis locates First World War short stories in between two canons: a literary canon of short fiction, which is dominated by a modernist aesthetics of the short story, and a socio-cultural canon of Great War writing, which is defined by a demand for authenticity of experience in writing about war. A wide selection of First World War short stories, gleaned from magazine back numbers, anthologies and collections, is discussed in relation to these conflicting demands. This study explores the changing social functions of Great War short stories and their diverse formal and stylistic approaches to the subject of the war, covering stories from wartime to inter- and post-war Britain. Short fiction addressing the First World War is, however, not seen in isolation, but is placed in the context of other writing about that conflict. It is moreover read in relation to its publishing environment, taking into account the specific conditions under which short fiction is produced and published in a rapidly changing market of periodicals and anthologies

Topics: "First World War", "short fiction", "memory", "prose fiction", "canonisation", "modernism", "popular fiction", "magazines"
Year: 2010
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Provided by: Durham e-Theses

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