There is a particular way of describing the development of the short story in the early part of the twentieth century which has had enormous influence on studies of the form. Most surveys of the genre race towards the major figures of modernism in the period leading up to and immediately following the Great War — James Joyce, Katherine Mansfield and D. H. Lawrence, for instance — because, the argument goes, the short story is a modern form, and therefore it must be expected to operate within the experimental mode of modernism. The critical and aesthetic preferences in discussions of the form have been for what Clare Hanson has called the ‘plotless fictions’ of the early years of the twentieth century, where ‘the primary distinction is between those works in which the major emphasis is on plot, and those in which plot is subordinate to psychology and mood’.1 Although other commentators, notably Dominic Head in The Modernist Short Story, have sought to finesse this view, they have often done so in ways which focus strongly on the short story’s formal features and on the technical innovations of the early part of the century.2 There are a number of problems with this emphasis.
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