Semiotics of Minimalist Fiction:
Genre as a Modeling System


Ibrahim TAHA
University of Haifa




Introduction

A correlation is evident between the recent swift development of science, technology, and economics, with its contribution to the formation of new social attitudes, and the dynamics of the rapid development worldwide of minimalist fiction. A variety of new sources of information and culture appear daily, a process that has deeply influenced literature and has created a dynamic of intra-literary activity. The eventual result has been the development of very short literary genres. These match the fast pace of overall development in this realm and integrate well within it. It cannot be stated with certitude whether the development of the minimalist fiction damaged the longer and more established genres. 1 We should also mention the increase in the number of open and fluid sources of information, which has resulted in the blurring of borders among various spheres of culture, including literature, as will be specified later on.



AS/SA nº 14, p.42




I have recently published an article on the concept of genre, and emphasizing that genres will not disappear even if they change and interact (see Taha, a2000: 101-120). That genres assist for comprehending the dynamics of texts is obviously emphasized in the article. The present paper mainly continues the previous one in a practical way. It offers the reader a methodical model for dealing with the very short story as a representative genre (or subgenre) of minimalist fiction. The major aim is to present a ‘semiotic guide’, so to speak, for a better grasp of minimalist fiction in general and of the very short story in particular. Genre is of course still a very complicated topic and far from agreed. In the post-modern era, the debate about genre theory is shifting gradually from genre to text. However, the concept of genre — as a combination of various shared features of similarity, commonality and familiarity — still has the potential to furnish the reader with different techniques for improved understanding of the nature of texts that have certain features in common. Guided by this assumption, I firmly believe that the issue of genre is largely interpretive. Genre, among other things, concerns outlining various features that may function as general instructions and semiotic directions to be somehow used by the reader in any reading and interpretation process. Genre, to my mind, is a semiotic umbrella. This is precisely why I believe that the concept of genre will not vanish by any means. It may change, undergo a major transition, or experience some sort of shift or switch. But it simply will not disappear because both the reader/critic/researcher and the writer make every endeavor, each in his/her particular way, to achieve two contradictory and complementary goals: 1) To go beyond the concept of pure genres, namely to violate the genre’s role and rule by intensive and ceaseless interaction between different genres, or alternatively by experimental writing in which writers try extraordinary forms, techniques, and styles. 2) To preserve some general features, so that the reader can make use of them as interpretive codes for well-established understanding of the texts.

The division of genres into different sub-genres, which one may refer to in terms of multiplication of genres, is the certain outcome of their undergoing various types of interaction. It is commonly believed that this is the only way to bridge the gap between those two goals, and to guarantee the survival of genres, not their purity. We should speak about the procreation of variable genres, ousting two concepts equally: pure genres and the death of genre theory. 2



AS/SA nº 14, p.43




In this article I primarily refer to the genre as a modeling system, applying the terminology devised by Thomas Sebeok and Marcel Danesi (See Sebeok and Danesi, 2000). 3 Genre cannot be considered a modeling system until it functions as an investigating model of the family status of literary texts, namely a system of controlling of texts by various devices of classification, categorization, similarity, and differentiation. Only after acceptance of the assumption of the ‘family concept’ does genre play a key role as a system/scheme of analysis, interpretation, and evaluation. Genre is obviously a concept that has the power to present various forms of written texts but the genre itself is not visual or concrete, as written texts are. Written texts are an interpretive medium, and as such they can provide the reader with practical devices shaping a super model called ‘genre’. These devices, based on their repetitive nature, gradually become semiotic codes which assist in understanding literary phenomena and comprehending texts. Thus, genre serves as a semiotic system whose combination of rules/tools/conventions provides a great assist in comprehending the operation of texts. By identifying signs and specifying their functioning, genre certainly seeks to describe the behavior of texts. The major aim of this paper is to describe the roles/conventions of minimalist fiction forming a modeling system by which readers may make use to grasp the dynamics of minimalist fiction in general and the very short story in particular.


Three Categories of Generic Components

Study of a large number of narrative texts written recently in various places in the world and at different times, under the generic tutelage of the very short story, points to three central categories of recurring qualities, in different versions, present throughout the text. These are brevity, approaching poetry, and strengthening of the reader’s position. 4 These three categories allow the very short narrative texts to coexist within one family with numerous secondary components of common generic identity. This article refers to the very short story as an inter-genre which has been growing stronger in recent decades; however, the above three categories, with all their components, should be perceived as a generic, theoretical, and critical basis for semiotic discussion in all narrative genres and sub-genres on the scale between the short story and poetry, namely the various types of the very short story.


1. Brevity and minimalism

Brevity and minimalism are relative, firstly a function of subjective judgement that varies from reader to reader. The changing judgement is characterized by openness and fluidity. Researchers of minimalist fiction in terms of generic identity do not agree about the maximal and minimum borders of such genres. They either set the maximal limits of the genre, without trying to establish the minimal limits, or they try to indicate a flexible interval between the minimal and the maximal limits of the genres (Shapard and Thomas, 1989: 20, 331; Wright, 1989: 51). Secondly, this relativity is a function of the comparison between the very short genres and the longer ones, on which there is no agreement either. Thus, different quantitative limits for the very short genres cannot be acceptable, agreed, and definite, as a result of such a comparison. If we arrange the main genres of fiction by the criterion of length, starting with the novel and ending with the very short story, the most significant difference will be one of quantity. The basic distinction made by this article is that this quantitative difference among genres necessarily involves significant differences in terms of type, as will be specified below. 5



AS/SA nº 14, p.44




In any case, this relativity means non-definition, non-definitiveness, and non-finality; so it is difficult to accept the use of a particular number of words/lines/columns in order to determine a comprehensive-generic quality, even if care and deliberation are applied. The quantitative component in the generic identity of minimalist fiction must be flexible, open, and fluid in order to make it possible for very short stories of four words to coexist with very short stories of one thousand words under the same generic patronage. Not wanting to sound as if I am trying to set the minimum and maximum limits of the very short story I wish to stress that the numerous breaches of such borders in both directions – above and below — leave no room for hermetic closure of the borders of the genre discussed. If this is the proposed framework, it is undefined, not final, and full of holes, and it seems superfluous and impractical in many cases. In addition, the matter of length does not necessarily turn one genre into another. If we stretch the maximal border of the short story by intensive use of detailed descriptions it will not necessarily turn into a novel. Presumably, then, the shortness of the very short story is primarily a function of the use of certain literary techniques. Presumably, this leads to the restriction of wordiness, and finally to the shortening of the text’s dimensions and borders. The relation between the shortness/length of the text and the use of certain literary techniques is certain, understood, and justified.

The literary techniques and devices whereby a minimal/minor story can be achieved are many and varied, and can be classified in two main groups: restriction of data and subtraction of data. These proposed groups are similar and they overlap. They are similar in their operation and effect, and in the final objective to achieve the most minimal and minor text. However, a significant difference exists between them. The literary techniques and devices of the first group — data restriction – limit the wordiness of the text as well as specific textual data. Those of the second group — subtracting data – delete various textual data. The first group includes the following techniques: summary, iteration, reactive character, motif, and making strange. G. Genette deals with ways in which the text’s pace can be accelerated or decelerated. In this context we deal with acceleration, which here means minimizing the narrative text. One way of achieving this objective is the ‘summary’, which means a quick, short reference in the text to a long and detailed occurrence (Genette, 1980: 95-99). In Rimmon-Kenan’s terminology the summary is interpreted as a condensation and compression of a long period of time from the fable into a relatively short passage in the text (Rimmon-Kenan, 1983: 53). This condensation is interpreted as the activation of a control system by the narrator, who chooses to present only the major data without going into detail. Contrary to the summary, iteration is ‘telling once what happened many times’ (Rimmon-Kenan, 1983: 58). Iteration, in this respect, is the opposite of repetition. Iteration minimizes the textual reality by eliminating things which repeat themselves in the course of life. Both summary and iteration break the chronological sequence of life and help the story become short and minimal.

Minimalism in the very short story can also be achieved by use of reactive characters. The very short story deals with sudden and rapidly occurring crisis situations, so the main role of the character in such a situation is naturally in the sphere of response, not of action and initiative. When the character reacts, this means that the situation is bigger, faster, and more surprising than the character. Moreover, it means that the situation precedes the character. This precedence invites the character to react, automatically sometimes, without presenting other options. Reactions are not decisions or choices that go through a slow and prolonged process of satisfying thoughts. They are a ritual activity which indicate the grip of the sudden crisis on the character’s emotional and perceptual system (Shapard and Thomas, 1989: 20). A character that makes do with reaction alone in the very short story is more affected by the text and affects it less. Such a character is content with little, does not develop the text, and does not extend its limits. The restriction of the character’s sphere of activity matches the minimal character of the very short story. From another viewpoint it may be claimed that the restriction contributes to the minimalism and reinforces it more and more. Additionally, this minimalism is perceived by M. Gorra as a ‘slice of life in which the characters are seen without the benefit of antecedents or social context. They rarely have last names’ (Gorra, 1984: 155). According to Gorra’s assumption the character in the minimal story has a limited presence, and this is what strengthens the character’s responsive nature. One may refer to this issue – the character’s responsive nature – as a semiotic code that may assist the reader in grasping the status of human being in post-modern era as they are reflected in minimalist fiction.



AS/SA nº 14, p.45




Like the reactive character, the motif, as ‘a minimal thematic unit’ (Prince, 1993: 55), can also contribute to the restriction of the wordiness of the text by concentrating its general meaning into a minimum of words and data. Repetition of data in the text can cause concentration of the text, but paradoxically it can also make the text yield other textual data (Horst and Daemmrich, 1987: 187-191). The difference between summary and motif in our discussion concerns the type of textual data which the text restricts and limits. While the summary refers to shortening of the chronological sequence of the fable in terms of time, the motif refers to the restriction of textual data in terms of concentrating the general meaning of the text, and as such it primarily functions as a semiotic code. Making strange, as formulated Shklovsky, contributes to the centralization of the text. The similarity between the motif and making strange, in this respect, is in the domain of condensing the general meaning of the text into a minimum of words. By distinguishing what is perceived from what is known, Shklovsky seeks to slow down the communication process between the text and the reader (Shklovsky, 1965: 12, 18). Such deceleration is a function of minimalism, symbolism, and obscurity. By restricting the number of known, familiar, and channeled textual data, and replacing them with strange data, the writer tries to create a symbolic and economic text, namely one that is less explicit and less direct. This is a text which conceals data more than it shows them.

The second group — subtraction of data — is a continuation of the first category specified above and in a certain respect it radicalizes the direction of the first group. The second group includes mainly the following techniques: ellipsis, paralipsis, gaps, and open end. Ellipsis is an elimination of a long period of time. 6 The very short story uses this technique to restrict the wordiness of the text as much as possible. In addition to ellipsis, which eliminates textual data referring to the time of the fabula, paralipsis is interpreted as elimination of various textual data (Genette, 1980: 52-53, 195-196). Both techniques refer to total omission of parts of text. This ‘damages the integrity’ of the narrative text. 7 This damage is most necessary and even inevitable. True, in any narrative text the reality is made by selection, based on different variations of ellipsis and paralipsis that create a restricted and condensed model of textual reality. In the very short story the selection is wider and more clearly defined than in longer genres of fiction. By intensive use of both techniques, the very short story can be told in two single lines. In other words, these techniques create a certain type of permanent gaps in the text, which are not filled by the text itself at the end of the reading process, namely they remain open (Rimmon-Kenan, 1983: 128). In the minimalist story the gaps in the text demand an act of gap-filling by the reader in a process of interpretation. The partiality of the minimalist story accomplished by intensive use of ellipsis and paralipsis increases the reader’s semiotic involvement in the reading process, the first contact of the reader with the text.

One of the most important gaps limiting the wording of the text is the open end — if such a type of ending can be considered a gap at all. The open end refers here to the omission of the last part of the text, by which definition the text ends one moment/stage before ‘it should actually end’; the damage in the last part of the narrative text is characteristic, as many researchers believe, of modern literature and modernism in general. But in minimalist fiction the effect of the open end is more obvious and more significant. 8



AS/SA nº 14, p.46




The various gaps create a partial and incomplete picture of the textual reality in terms of time, space, characters, occurrences, and finally also meaning. The more minimal, restricted, and limited the time and space of the text, the more limited the number of characters acting in the text, and this ultimately limits the number of central occurrences in the text. This chain of restrictions constricts the general meaning of the text and condenses it in a minimum of wording.


2. Approaching poetry

There is wide agreement among researchers on the closeness of minimalist fiction in general to poetry; the term ‘generic mixture’ is used (Shapard and Thomas, 1989: 25, 317). According to S.H. Brown the short story works very much like poetry and not like the novel (Brown, 1989: 234). The logic on which Brown bases her assumption is the shorter the narrative text the closer it is to poetry.

A most central and important way in which the minimal narrative text approximates poetry is the employment of poetic language. Minimalism and the use of lyric figurative language are correlated (Hallett, 1996: 490). The short story, according to Friedman, brings us closer to the sentence than does the novel, but it ties us less to the word than does the poem. Since the ending of the short story is close to the beginning, every sentence has meaning and demands special attention (Friedman, 1989: 27). But in a more minimal story, such as the very short story of several lines, every word is important and becomes even more significant. Poetry possesses a standard and collective language which undergoes a concentrated process of metamorphosis. At the end of this process this language becomes more individualistic, unique, evasive, and inconclusive. The power of poetic language in minimalist fiction is realized through this process, which among other things is a consequence of blurring of the narrative character in this sort of fiction. In addition to the use of the language of poetry, the weakening of the logical syntactic relation between sentences also contributes to the strengthening of the poetic dimension of minimalist fiction in general and of the very short story in particular. The distinction between the two terms ‘recite’ and ‘diegesis’ is vital when we distinguish poetry from narrative fiction. Diegesis refers to turning the textual signs into ones that are marked in the reader’s language; it is extremely difficult to implement this in poetry, in which the words of the texts are extremely important and therefore very difficult to translate. It is easy to discuss these two terms in narrative fiction, but when the story approaches poetry it is extremely difficult to ignore the power of words in the story (Scholes, 1982: 110-114). The question here refers to Friedman’s assumption of the relation between the minimality of fiction and its poetic nature. Therefore, it is important for me to expand the discussion of minimality. The two central characteristics of minimalist fiction in general and of the very short story in particular — approaching poetry and strengthening the reader’s position — derive from this minimalist character. The restriction of wording in fiction not only strengthens the figurative and metaphoric aspect of the text, which consequently strengthens the text’s semiotic power, but also weakens its narrative character. The approach of the minimal story to poetry is from two directions: direct — direct employment of the language of poetry; and indirect — alienation from fiction, namely blurring the chronological sequence of the fable and strengthening of the place of description at the expense of occurrences. The blurring of sequence in the very short story means drifting away from the real world and approaching the world of dreams. This process gained impetus with the development of the very short story and with the fortification of its position in minimalist fiction, as Rohrberger and Burns believe (1982: 6). In the dream, reality seems disorderly, inconsequent, unrealistic, and non-prosaic. If we set the dream opposite reality in discussing the approach of fiction to poetry, we can use a rough equation that identifies the realistic situation with fiction and the dream with poetry.



AS/SA nº 14, p.47




J. Gerlach believes that the specification of space, time, and characters in a narrative text is important for creating a story. This specification, which also refers to conflicts, is what creates the plot, and if there is a detailed plot there is also fiction (Gerlach, 1989: 77-78). Gerlach accords importance not only to specification but also to the illusion the characters arouse in their attitude to time and space. For those characters to be able to achieve this, they should be depicted as ones who have the chance to think inside the text. This thinking is interpreted as an initiated activity, as specified in the previous section. Here, according to Gerlach, lies the line separating poetry and prose as regards the character. If we refer to the character as a reflector of meaning, the result is a poem, and if it gets the chance to think and act, we have a story (1989: 84). For the character to be essentially reflective, minimalist fiction uses various techniques which are characteristic or identified with poetry more than with fiction. The intensity of employment of such techniques seems to be what contributes to the poetic nature of minimalist fiction in general, not just their employment itself. It is the intensive use of different variations of symbolism (signs, symbols, and allegories) and ambiguity. Ambiguity is an essential quality, which takes part in the design of the generic identity of minimalist fiction in general and of poetry in particular. So if minimalist fiction approaches poetry, owing to the various factors mentioned above, it is only natural that something of this ambiguity will stick to it as well. Various techniques of ambiguity creation can be discerned in minimalist fiction, and at times the extreme employment of such techniques leads the minimal story to complete obscurity. The intensive use of different variations of contrasts and similarities on both the word level and the significance level, and the employment of various characters from world cultural history under the terminological auspices of intertextuality, can lead to certain conditions of ambiguity, and even to complete obscurity of the text. Quite often the impression is that the author of minimalist fiction develops the significance of the text written. The author approaches the writing activity with a feeling of meaning, but it is not crystallized and polished. If the writer himself is not so sure about the exact message that he intends to transmit to the reader by means of the minimalist text, it can be assumed that this text does not provide the reader with ‘all’ the vital codes to search for the meaning of the text or to create it, as Scholes observed (1982: 30). All this matter of ambiguity of the minimal text reinforces its dreamlike character, particularly the ambiguity of the very short story. Having remembered a remarkable observation by Juri Lotman that text functions as a "meaning-generating mechanism", (1990: 11-19), this genre firmly confirms Lotman's observation by dealing with what we call pre-meaning. Instead of aspiring to a well-defined meaning, the closeness of the very short story to poetry leaves us with a general feeling of an invisible and blurred kind of generating-meaning. All these techniques of mixing narrative fiction with poetry may function as semiotic guide that motivate the reader to be fully prepared for a case of over-interpretation.

3. Strengthening the reader’s position

The reader’s position in the theory of literature has become very strong in recent decades (Taha, 1997: 131-150). All data which physically make up the generic identity of the very short story ultimately prolong the process of communication between it and the reader. Here the reader has to be ready and well-informed regarding a complex activity in each of the four stages of the interpretation process. 9 The prolongation of this process is a function of the text’s minimalism. With the development of the short story towards the very short story the reader’s position is reinforced. He is requested to be more involved (Rohrberger and Burns, 1982: 6).



AS/SA nº 14, p.48




Hallett speaks about the empty spaces in the minimalist story which provide the reader with the opportunity to understand what has been eliminated from what actually existed (1996: 487-488). These empty spaces constitute various types of gaps, which call for intensive activity of completion on the reader’s part. Imbof, speaking about the brevity of the very short story, believes that this minimalist genre must be compensated by the development of the reader’s imagination (1984: 160). In the same vein A.M. Wright speaks about the tendency of the modern short story to leave the significant things of the text to be concluded by the reader (1989: 52). The weakening of the authoritative male status of the author has allowed readers to occupy a central position in the process of literary communication in modern literature in general. This belief is particularly true regarding the minimalist genres which are related in a certain way to poetry. All the various historical, narrative, and poetic characteristics mentioned in the two previous sections evince the tendency and the wish of the modern author to write a partial text, in respect of both the textual data and the general meaning of the text. This incompleteness and fragmentation, mentioned by M.L. Pratt (1981: 175), reinforce the need for complementary action by the reader (Gerlach, 1989: 80). If there is room for the relatively free activity of the reader to create his own text, based on the written one, this means that the written text allows this game with the reader. The very short story tends to be evasive, and this is what actually impels the reader to search for truth, finality, and perfection in his contact with such a story. As mentioned, an evasive and incomplete story invites the reader to end it in some way or other. However, the reader’s complementary activity in communicating with a very short story does not have to be interpreted as final and binding. Any subtraction of various textual data and any techniques that reinforce the ambiguous character of the very short story have been so planned as to make the reader feel and sense, more than understand, as Hallett believes (489).

In the previous section we discussed the condition of pre-meaning 10 in the very short story as a function of its closeness to poetry. Compared with a condition of “clear” meaning in the text, the condition of pre-meaning in the very short story — as clarified in the previous sections — does not allow a one-time consumption of the text. On the contrary, it allows it to renew itself, to accommodate and adapt to various types of readers and various strategies of reading and interpretation.



AS/SA nº 14, p.49




Conclusion

The researcher finds it convenient to examine a certain literary phenomenon in terms of taxonomy based on categories. However, the limitations of this approach must be recognized. The generalist character of the classic generic approach ignores the numerous cases of breach of this framework, as is argued by adherents of the anti-generic approach. In this article I have tried indirectly to reconcile these two approaches so that I can emphasizes the semiotic nature of genres. On the one hand, an elementary examination was made of various recurrent components in minimalist fiction in general, and in the very short story in particular, in a diachronic and synchronic cross-section. All those components were arranged in three categories which maintain a close mutual relationship: the quantitative category, the typical category, and the communicative category. The close overlapping of these categories, with all the elements involved, makes it extremely hard to distinguish several of their components. On the other hand, the inter-generic character of the very short story was noted, so that most generic components of this story, as discussed in the article, are not specific to this genre alone. They are composed of more ‘established’ and more ‘stable’ genres from the fields both of fiction and poetry. But these components, whether more identified with fiction or with poetry, acquire special importance in the generic identity of the very short story for two main reasons: the radicalization of such components, which in the end creates a much stronger effect on any interpretation process; and the intensity of employing these components, which in the end leads to stronger effects, and the intensity of using them at a higher frequency, which makes them more visible. It is also important to avoid looking for all these generic elements artificially in any minimalist story. The attempt to present a general generic framework, and at the same time leave it open, even if only partially, indicates the problematic nature of any generic discussion.

The first category, which deals with the minimalist character of the very short story in terms of quantity and degree, is the basic starting point of the discussion, which finally leads to characteristics of kind. The assumption is that the more restricted and limited the textual reality in the very short story is, the weaker is the narrative character of such a story and the more condensed and contradicted its general meaning. The weakening of the narrative character and the condensation of meaning in a minimum of textual data mean a close approach to the field of poetry. This approximation causes the strengthening of the reader’s position and his significant activation in the process of literary communication with the text.

Minimalist fiction is presumably more difficult and complicated to read and interpret than are long genres of narrative fiction. Generally, quantity (shortness/longness) in fiction is not always a reliable measure for clarity or ambiguity and obscurity. However as the text becomes shorter every individual word becomes more focused and plays a key role in any interpretation process. Long texts normally have sufficient room for an enormous number of signs to be scattered in various places throughout. A minimalist text, by contrast, is the assembly of a large number of signs and codes in a minimum of words. As noted above, genre as a modeling system functions as a semiotic guide, which assists the reader in dealing with minimalist fiction. This guide emphasizes the need for an active, productive reader, who principally accepts the challenge to ‘replace’ the writer’s minimalist text with his/her own at the end of a long process of communication.




AS/SA nº 14, p.50




Notes

1. However, it seems that B. S. Johnson’s reasoning is quite understandable: ‘Who wants long novels anyway? Why spend all your spare time for a month reading a thousand-page novel, when you can have a similar aesthetic experience in the theatre or cinema in only one evening? The writing of a long novel is in itself an anachronistic act: it was relevant only to a society in a set of social conditions which no longer exist [...] The novel should now simply try to be funny, brutal and short’ (1974: 106). [Return 1]

2. Practically all researchers of genre theory indicate two aspects of literary genres: the intra-literary aspect and the extra-literary aspect. A thorough examination of such studies distinguishes three approaches to genre classification: pure genre, inter-genre, and anti-genre. (See Cohen, 1987: 241-257; Culler, 1975; Derrida, 1980: 55-82; Fishelov, 1991: 123-138; Rosmarin, 1985). The two last approaches have been struggling with each other for many years. However, it seems that the second, the inter-generic approach, occupies a more central status than the other two. By this approach, literary genres go through processes of permanent interaction which are a function of extra-literary and intra-literary factors. Such interaction leads to a dynamic of perpetual change in the character and historical status of the genres by the transfer of generic components from one genre to another and the bringing together various genres. (See Fishelov, 1991: 123-138; Rosch and Mervis, 1975: 573-605). [Return 2]

3. For details about the great contribution of the Moscow-Tartu school and Thomas Sebeok to the concept of modeling system in the semiotic studies see (Sebeok, 1991: 49-58; Andrews, 2003).. [Return 3]

4. This conclusion is chiefly based on the very short stories in the anthology edited by Shapard and Thomas, and those in Anglistik & Englischunterricht, and hundreds of very short stories published in the internet. For more details on these three categories applied to the modern Arabic very short story see my critical essay (Taha, 2000b: 59-84). [Return 4]

5. For more details about the linkage between ‘degree’ and ‘kind’ and the interrelations between structure and theme in short fiction, see (Ferguson, 1982: 13-24; Friedman, 1966: 289-297; May, 1976: 327-338). [Return 5]

6. Genette deals at length with this technique and he mentions three main variations of it: explicit, implicit, and hypothetical (see Genette 1980: 106-109). All these variations ‘represent a practically non-existent portion of text’ (Genette, 1980: 109). As stated by Rimmon-Kenan, it is ‘where zero textual space corresponds to some story duration’ (1983: 53).. [Return 6]

7. No narrative text, according to Iser, ‘can ever be told in its entirety. Indeed it is only through inevitable omissions that a story will gain its dynamism’ (Iser, 1971: 284). [Return 7]

8. For details of the correlation between classical literature and closed closure, and between modernism and open closure, see (Haidu, 1986: 22; Friedman, 1966: 179-180). Friedman attributes great importance to the ending of the text in establishing its position, kind, and generic identity. If the text is structured so as to reach a certain ending, the ending can also dominate the beginning and the middle of the text. This is how we can, in fact, relate to the matter of brevity/length of the text (1989: 24). [Return 8]

9. I have suggested, in a recent paper, a semiotic model of literary interpretation compound of four stages: 1) First reading: abridging the text. In this stage, his or her contact with the text, the reader reduces the text by leaving out all the ‘irrelevant’ textual data, and keeps in mind only those, which are needed for the next stages. 2) Second reading: from text to meaning. The reader ascribes textual meaning/s to the abridged text, going by what has been remained in his/her mind. 3) Limits of interpretation: from meaning to significance. In this stage, the reader becomes more involved in the process of interpretation by generalizing the meanings she or he has gleaned from the text, and turning them into general significance. 4) Space of writing: from significance to intention. In the final stage, the reader attributes those significances to the author him/herself, and refers to them as the original intention of the actual author. For more details on these four stages, see (Taha, 2000/2001: 229-251). [Return 9]

10. For further details on the three categories of literary meaning (meaning and post-meaning, pre-meaning and non-meaning and anti-meaning), see my article (Taha, 2002: 263-281). [Return 10]



References

Andrews, Edna. Conversations with Lotman: Cultural Semiotics in Language, Literature, and Cognition. Toronto, Buffalo, and London: University of Toronto Press, 2003.

Brown, Suzanne Hunter. “Discourse Analysis and Short Story”, in Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey, eds., Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Cohen, Ralph. “Do Postmodern Genres Exist?” Genre XX:3-4 (1987): 241-257.

Culler, Jonathan. “Towards a Theory of Non-Genre Literature”, in Raymond Federman, ed., Surfiction: Fiction Now and Tomorrow. Chicago: Swallow Press, 1975.

Derrida, Jacques. “The Law of Genre”. Critical Inquiry 7:1 (1980): 55-82 (this essay also appeared in Glyph 7:1, 1980: 202-232).

Ferguson, Suzanne C. “Defining the Short Story: Impressionism and Form”. Modern Fiction Studies 28:1 (Spring, 1982): 13-24.

Fishelov, David. “Genre Theory and Family Resemblance – Revisited”. Poetics 20 (1991): 123-138.

Friedman, Alan. The Turn of the Novel: The Transition to Modern Fiction. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1966.

Friedman, Norman. “Recent Short Story Theories: Problems in Definition”, in Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey, eds., Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Genette, G. Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method, trans. by Jane E. Lewin, Ithaca NY: Cornell University Press, 1980.

Gerlach, John. “The Margins of Narrative: The Very Short Story, the Prose Poem, and the Lyric”, in Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey, eds., Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.

Gorra, Michael. “Laughter and Bloodshed”. Hudson Review 37 (spring 1984): 151-164.

Haidu, Peter. “The Semiotization of Death: Open Text or Closed?” Style 20:2 (1986): 220-251.

Hallett, Cynthia J. “Minimalism and the Short Story”. Studies in Short Fiction, 33 (1996): 487-495.

Horst, S., and Daemmrich, Ingrid. Themes & Motifs in Western Literature: A Handbook. Tübingen: Francke Verlag, 1987.

Imbof, Rüdiger. “Minimal Fiction, or the Question of Scale”. Anglistik & Englischunterricht, 23 (1984):159-168.

Iser, Wolfgang. “The Reading Process: A Phenomenological Approach”. New Literary History 3 (1971): 279-299.

Johnson, B. S. Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry. London, 1974.

Leibold, Roland. “Robert Louis Stevenson: ‘Was it Murder?’”. Anglistik & Englischunterricht, 23 (1984): 37-48.

Lotman, Juri. Universe of the Mind: A Semiotic Theory of Culture. Trans. by A. Shukman, intro. by U. Eco. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990.

May, Charles E. “The Unique Effect of the Short Story: A Reconsideration and an Example”. Studies in Short Fiction XIII (1976): 289-297.

May, Charles E. “The Nature of Knowledge in Short Fiction”. Studies in Short Fiction XXI (1984): 327-338.

Pratt, Mary Louise. “The Short Story: The Long and the Short of It”. Poetics, 10 (1981): 175-194.



AS/SA nº 14, p.51




Prince, Gerald. “The Long and the Short of It”. Style, 27:3 (1993): 327-331.

Rimmon-Kenan, Shlomith. Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics. London and New York: Routledge, 1983.

Rohrberger, Mary, and Burns, Dan. “Short Fiction and the Numinous Realm: Another Attempt at Definition”. Modern Fiction Studies 28/1 (Spring 1982): 5-12.

Rosch, Eleanor, and Mervis, Carolyn. “Family Resemblance: Studies in the Internal Structure of Categories”. Cognitive Psychology 7 (1975): 573-605.

Rosmarin, Adena. The Power of Genre. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1985.

Sapp, Jo. “Interview with Amy Hempel”. Missouri Review, 16 (1993): 75-95.

Scholes, Robert. Semiotics and Interpretation. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1982.

Sebeok, Thomas. A Sign Is Just a Sign. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1991.

Sebeok, Thomas and Danesi, Marcel. The Forms of Meaning-Modeling systems Theory and Semiotic Analysis. Berlin and New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 2000.

Shapard, Robert, and Thomas, James, eds., Sudden Fiction International: Sixty Short-Short Stories. New York and London: Norton, 1989.

Shklovsky, Victor. “Art as Technique”, in Lee T. Lemon and Marion J. Reis, translation and introduction, Russian Formalist Criticism: Four Essays, Lincoln and London, University of Nebraska Press, 1965.

Simmons, Philip E. “Minimalist Fiction as ‘Low’ Postmodernism, Mass Culture and the Search for History”. Genre, XXIV (Spring, 1991): 45-62.

Taha, Ibrahim “The Literary Communication Pact: A Semiotic Approach”. Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, 114-1/2 (1997):131-150.

---------- “Text-Genre Interrelations: A Topographical Chart of Generic Activity”. Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, 132-1/2 (a2000): 101-120.

---------- “The Modern Arabic Very Short Story: A Generic Approach”. Journal of Arabic Literature, 31:1 (b2000): 59-84.

---------- “Flow of Significance Procreation in the Motive of Infertility: The Limits of Interpretation in Yusuf al-Qa‘id’s Khadd al-Jmil”. Al-Karmil: Studies in Arabic Language and Literature, 21-22 (2000-2001): 229-251. [Arabic]

---------- “Semiotics of Literary Meaning: A Dual Model”. Semiotica: Journal of the International Association for Semiotic Studies, 139-1/4 (2002): 263-281.

Wright, Austin M. “On Defining the Short Story: The Genre Question”, in Susan Lohafer, and Jo Ellyn Clarey, eds., Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Baton Rouge and London: Louisiana State University Press, 1989.





index.html




E-mail to the editors
Pour écrire à la rédaction



© 2004, Applied Semiotics / Sémiotique appliquée