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Comic short fiction and its variety

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Macdonald, K. (2016) Comic short fiction and its variety. In: Einhaus, A.-M. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the English Short Story. Cambridge Companions to Literature. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, pp. 145-158. ISBN 9781107084179

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Abstract/Summary

Humour in fiction functions as the salt that enhances taste, and crosses the boundaries of form and genre. It works impalpably in solution, disseminating through characterisation, and as crystalline grains of joke, embedded in its medium. In short fiction, humour’s protean quality has a stronger effect because it is less diluted. A humorous narrative voice will infuse an otherwise serious sequence of events with a comic perspective. Comedy delivers social shame for public enjoyment, and can reveal hidden meaning at the end of the narrative. The pervasive but discreet quality of the comic in short fiction frequently disguises its workings, however, and makes it hard to identify as a convenient set of aesthetic characteristics. We also cannot separate comic short stories from their medium. Short fiction is distinguished from the novel by its transmission in, historically, the magazine and the newspaper. The evolution of comic short stories through twentieth-century book history arrives in the age of the e-reader still linked closely to its medium, which offers digitised commute-length reading.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Literature
ID Code:69008
Publisher:Cambridge University Press

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