The Emergence of the Short Story Cycle in Canada: Alice Munro's Short Story Cycles as a Case Study

  • Ines Belkahla


Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women and The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose are two literary
works that hardly fit into one single literary category. Critics of all quarters are at one and of the same mind as to the slippery and elusive nature of Alice’s art. However, despite being approached by some critics as a collection of short stories, Alice’s narrative seems to embody a sub-genre that is particular of the Canadian literary tradition, which is the short story cycle. Also known as the composite or episodic novel, the story collection or the linked stories, this genre could be briefly defined as a sequence of short stories that are linked through a unifying element, like a character, the setting or the story. Characterized, as it is, with its fragmentary nature and its openness, this genre compels its researcher to look into its origins and its implications at the level of content. Few studies have been carried on this genre to provide the necessary grounds for an elaborate research on it. Forrest L. Ingram’s work Representative Short Story Cycles of the Twentieth Century is the first academic work that provides a consistent definition for the short story cycle as a genre. On the other hand, Gerald Lynch’s The One and the Many: English-Canadian Short Story Cycles examines the sine qua non tension between the parts and the whole of the versatile form of the short story cycle in Canada. With reference to Alice Munro’s Lives of Girls and Women and The Beggar Maid as two representatives of the short story cycle, I attempt to examine the inscription of this sub-genre, and map its evolution
over the last centuries in Canadian literature.
Keywords: Short story cycle, genre studies, Canadian literature