Style and Rhetoric of Short Narrative Fiction
Covert Progressions Behind Overt Plots
By Dan Shen
Routledge – 2014 – 176 pages
In many fictional narratives, the progression of the plot exists in tension with a very different and powerful dynamic that runs, at a hidden and deeper level, throughout the text. In this volume, Dan Shen systematically investigates how stylistic analysis is indispensable for uncovering this covert progression through rhetorical narrative criticism. The book brings to light the covert progressions in works by the American writers Edgar Allan Poe, Stephan Crane and Kate Chopin and British writer Katherine Mansfield.
"This important contribution to the stylistics of short fiction and poetics of narrative both enriches the theory of the short story and provides new interpretations of a range of major British and American stories. It is very relevant both for the teaching of short fiction and for the theory of narrative." --Jonathan Culler, Cornell University
"Dan Shen persuasively expands the scope of the rhetorical theory of narrative by showing that careful attention to easily overlooked patterns of meaning (what she calls 'covert progressions') in fiction naturally leads to matters that previous rhetorical theorists have not done justice to, especially the interrelationships among style, ethics, and biography." --James Phelan, Ohio State University
"It is not often that a major breakthrough occurs in a well-established discipline like rhetorical narrative studies. Style and Rhetoric of Short Narrative Fiction: Covert Progressions Behind Overt Plots is definitely such a book. I commend it enthusiastically to all readers interested in narrative fiction." --J. Hillis Miller, University of California, Irvine
"A distinguished senior scholar makes a major contribution, combining in a rare way the perspectives of narrative theory, stylistics, and rhetoric to provide challenging new interpretations of major short fiction from nearly a century of English-language writing, ranging from Poe to Katherine Mansfield." --Jonathan Arac, University of Pittsburgh
"The power of rhetorical analysis is presented with great clarity, systematizing the variety of tools, concepts and perspectives in a model easy to grasp. Beside the sound theoretical proposal, this book is worth reading inasmuch as it offers a great example of analytic finesse and of synthetic skills. The quality of the readings is excellent for those interested in literary hermeneutics, and the arguments will appear clear and convincing to those more interested in theoretical reflection." -- Federico Pianzola, GRAAT
"In sum, this is not only an important book with an original thesis, masterfully developed in a series of strong readings, but it is also a challenging work- provocative in the best sense." -- H. Porter Abbott, University of California, Santa Barbara
"What Style and Rhetoric of Short Narrative Fiction has accomplished in analyzing the various intricate interactions between overt and covert textual movements in a judiciously selected corpus is not only many insights into the subtleties of the narratives so meticulously examined but also the opening up of perspectives for the rhetorical analysis of other narratives and corpuses. Both precise and adaptable, the criteria and procedures for analyzing the interplay between the overt and the covert have much to offer to a methodology of narrative theory and analysis." - John Pier, Universite´ Francois-Rabelais de Tours
Foreword J. Hillis Miller Introduction. Part 1: Style and Covert Progression in American Short Fiction 1. Style, Unreliability, and Hidden Dramatic Irony: Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart" 2. Style and Unobtrusive Emasculating Satire: Crane’s "An Episode of War" 3. Style, Surprise Ending, and Covert Mythologization: Chopin’s "Désirée’s Baby" Part II: Style and Different Forms of Covert Progression in Mansfield's Fiction 4. Style, Changing Distance, and Doubling Irony: Mansfield’s "Revelations" 5. Style and Concealed Social Protest: Mansfield’s "The Singing Lesson" 6. Style and Secretly Unifying the Digressive: Mansfield’s "The Fly." Coda.
Dan Shen is Changjiang Professor of English Language and Literature at Peking University, China. She is on the advisory or editorial boards of the American journals Style and Narrative, the British Language and Literature, and the European JLS: Journal of Literary Semantics, as well as being a consultant editor of Routledge Encyclopedia of Narrative Theory.