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Polyphonic Voices and Ellipsis in Classic Short Stories

Polyphony versus Monologic Narratives

1. In “Distance and Emotion,” chapter 11 of her book, The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925: Theory of a Genre, Florence Goyet observes that In Mikhail Bakhtin’s terms, a text is monologic and diametrically opposed to the polyphonic novel when it lets us hear one truth only, privileging one voice over all others.In order to create polyphony, as defined by Bakhtin, the different voices involved must be “a plurality of consciousnesses, with equal rights” — each of them must have their own validity. […]There are very few classic short stories that expose us to several “voices”.In contrast to monologic classic short stories, Modernist stories are often polyphonic and expose the reader to two or more ‘voices.’ With reference TWO stories from Fitzgerald’s “The Ice Palace,” Woolf’s “Kew Gardens” or Tagore’s “The Child’s Return,” identify what different ‘voices’ these stories articulate. Analyze how these voices are presented and in what ways the presence of different ‘voices’ affects our reading of the story. Remember to substantiate your argument with quotations from the short stories.
2. In the second term of the course, we have explored how the technique of ellipsis or ‘gaps’ is used in the short story to destabilize meaning and engage the reader in finding different interpretations of the story. With reference to TWO stories from O’Connor’s “A Good Man is hard to Find,” Gallant’s “Florida,” and Munro’s “Deep-holes,” identify how these gaps are created, and analyze the ways they can lead to diverse interpretations of the story. Remember to substantiate your argument with quotations from the short stories.

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