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The Health of the Short Story: Part 1
  • ISSN: 2043-0701
  • E-ISSN: 2043-071X

Abstract

The digital revolution has brought back to the fore questions about the health of the short story. Short fiction scholars have for some time now been considering the possibilities that post-book and online spaces might open for the short story form and its popularity among readers. Despite this, when Kristen Roupenian’s short story ‘Cat Person’ went viral late in 2017, critics of the genre paid virtually no attention to it. This article sets out to correct this on the premise that studying the ‘Cat Person’ phenomenon can help us refine our understanding of the behaviour and potential of short stories in digital spheres. It focuses, to explore this, on the fact that Roupenian’s text was received as an essay, rather than a short story, by many of its first readers, and accounts for this miscategorization in two different yet interlinked ways. First, it situates the piece in a tradition of women’s storytelling that has long been blurring the line between fiction and non-fiction. And second, it examines the reception of ‘Cat Person’ in the context of social media platforms that promote personal and reality-based modes of expression and communication. The article concludes by conceptualizing a connection between non-fictional interpretations of the story and its virality. Such link complicates accounts about the amenability of short fiction to online environments, suggesting that a story’s capacity to relinquish its identity as such and take on functions of the essay genre might play a key role in determining its performance online.

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/content/journals/10.1386/fict_00050_1
2022-04-01
2024-07-16
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