As a genre, the short story cycle, or composite novel, has appealed for over 100 years to a wide range of American authors, from Sherman Alexie to Eudora Welty. The major characteristic of this genre is a collection of stories that are both interrelated and self-sufficient—what Madison Smartt Bell calls a “mosaic” quality that contributes to a holistic, yet fragmented “modular design.” While critical attention to this genre has focused mostly on matters of either form or content, scholars have not usually considered the form's effect on the text's content, particularly related to gender identity formation. The logical assumption might be that the short story cycle’s multiple perspectives, evolutions, and revolutions allow for a vivid illustration of gender performativity and fluidity, but is such an assumption accurate? Even though the terms are used interchangeably, can a genre or a gender be both cyclical and composite? Submit a 300-word proposal by 9/30/2010.
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