The (Re)Identification of (Collective) Memory, Part I

Note: This is the first post in a two part serialization of a seminar paper I wrote this last semester for a class in the modern(ist) short story sequence. As examples of the genre, we read Dubliners, Winesburg, Ohio, In Our Time, Go Down, Moses, The Golden Apples, The Maples’ Stories, and Cathedral. Along the way, we engaged several theories that lend themselves well to reading the genre of the short story sequence, one of which was Wolfgang Iser‘s brand of reader-response theory, which you’ll get a little taste of toward the end of this post.

Instead of engaging one of the texts we read in class for my paper, I decided to apply myself toward a reading of Virginia Sorensen’s Where Nothing Is Long Ago: Memories of a Mormon Childhood, which, as my introduction details, has variously been read as a collection of short stories (though not a short story sequence/cycle, which, among other things, presupposes a greater degree of connection between the cycle’s narratives) and as a collection of personal essays. Rather, I make a case here for the book as what Sandra A. Zagarell calls a narrative of community (sorry for the lack of accessibility to Zagarell’s article; this front-page view is the best I can do with what the web gives me).

I’ve tried to steer clear of reliance on litcrit jargon here, but I’m not sure how successful I’ve been. Your feedback on such matters is more than welcome as I try to expand this draft (potentially) into a publishable article. In other words, if I’m not clear, tell me, and I’ll do my best to become clear.

Today’s post sets the theoretical stage for my discussion. Part two, which I’ll post tomorrow, digs into the meat of Sorensen’s text, though, I must admit, I wasn’t able to spend as much time with each narrative here as I’d like to (due to time constraints, etc.). I do plan, however, to flesh out my discussion of these stories and the connections between them and the generic qualities of the narrative of community a bit more as I move through the revision process.

So in short, I’m using this venue as a trial run for my critical (re)exploration of Sorensen’s text. Continue reading “The (Re)Identification of (Collective) Memory, Part I”