The Nineteenth-Century French Short Story
Masterpieces in Miniature
The 19th-Century French Short Story, by eminent scholar, Allan H. Pasco, seeks to offer a more comprehensive view of the definition, capabilities, and aims of short stories. The book examines general instances of the genre specifically in 19th-century France by recognizing their cultural context, demonstrating how close analysis of texts effectively communicates their artistry, and arguing for a distinction between middling and great short stories. Where previous studies have examined the writers of short stories individually, The 19th-Century French Short Story takes a broader lens to the subject, and looks at short story writers as they grapple with the artistic, ethical, and social concerns of their day. Making use of French short story masterpieces, with reinforcing comparisons to works from other traditions, this book offers the possibility of a more adequate appreciation of the under-valued short story genre.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1: On Defining Short Stories
Chapter 2: Sequential Uncertainty in Vivant Denon’s "Point de lendemain"
Chapter 3: Huysmans and the Bifocal Dilemma
Chapter 4: Sequence Denied in Barbey’s "Don Juan" and "Le Dessous de cartes"
Chapter 5: Sequence Framed in Mérimée’s Carmen
Chapter 6: Reforming Society and Genre in Hugo’s "Claude Gueux"
Chapter 7: Flaubert’s Talking Heads in the Cyclical Trois Contes
Chapter 8: The Power of Ambiguity in Balzac’s Open Closures
Chapter 9: Maupassant’s Exploding Closures
Chapter 10: Conclusion
Allan H. Pasco is the Hall Distinguished Professor of Nineteenth-Century Literature at the University of Kansas. Specializing in French culture, his critical and historical orientations are rooted in literature. The 19th-Century French Short Story focuses on reasons for the power of the French short story, and follows his earlier consideration of novel forms, Inner Workings of the Novel. Professor Pasco has published ten books on Proust, Balzac, romanticism, allusion, concepts of affection, aesthetic forms, and the thoroughly revised, expanded second edition of his anthology of nineteenth-century short stories. His articles have appeared in such journals as French Studies, Modern Language Review, PMLA, New Literary History, and the Revue d'Histoire Littéraire. While serving on eight editorial boards, he was recognized with the Civilian Service Award by the US government, and has been listed both in the Marquis Who's Who in America since 1999 and, more recently, the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. He has also been named a Chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes Académiques by the French government.
What defines the short story as a genre, and what are the unifying principles behind exceptional short stories? These are the questions at the heart of this brief, rewarding journey into the world of "masterpieces in miniature"—in particular, outstanding examples of the genre by eight acclaimed 19th-century French authors: Denon, Huysmans, Barbey, Mérimée, Hugo, Flaubert, Balzac, and Maupassant. Pasco (Univ. of Kansas) contends that critics have for far too long underappreciated the short story. He argues that at its core, the short story is characterized not by rigid rules regarding style, length, or subject matter but rather by a "magic" blend of devices and strategies. Far from being simply a short novel, a short story presents complex challenges for the writer, who, like a poet, must weigh every word while exploring the implicit, the suggestive, and the allusive. The genre also places exceptional demands on readers, who are "expected to read knowingly and well," to admire each word choice, and to recognize literary or cultural allusions. Pasco shows how masters of the genre become like magicians, turning less into more. Readers become like coauthors, engaged in the creation of the work by turning minimal exposition into maximal meaning. This is a compelling, jargon-free study.
--C. B. Kerr, Vassar College
CHOICEconnect February 2020 Vol. 57 No. 6