Saturday, April 23, 2011

“The Figure of the Author in the Short Story in English”: Angers, France, April 8&9, 2011

“The Figure of the Author in the Short Story in English” Conference last week at the University of Angers in France was a real pleasure for me. I was honored to be the keynote speaker, opening the conference on Friday morning with a presentation entitled, “Why Many Authors Like Short Stories and Many Readers Do Not.” The Journal of the Short Story in English, published by Presses de l’Universite Angers plans to publish the essay, so I cannot post it on this blog. However, the citations from which I developed the essay have all been posted in the past month. I will let you know when the issue of the journal featuring presentations at the conference is available.

Sponsored jointly by the University of Angers and Edge Hill University in England, the conference also featured British writer Toby Litt, who read one of his most recent stories to end the conference on Saturday afternoon. A number of scholars from England, America, Canada, Belgium, Iran, Poland, Ireland, Romania, and elsewhere gave presentations on the relationship between the author and the work, focusing on stories by Ali Smith, Angela Carter, Margaret Atwood, John Fowles, Katherine Mansfield, George Saunders, and others.

I usually have at least one confrontation at these conferences, for my own approach to studying the short story differs from the trendy cultural/social approach nowadays. It was the following comment that kicked off some negative reaction from one academic: “Many current literature students have been taught to read for social themes, political issues, and cultural contexts. My hope is that my colleagues, especially those just now entering the profession, will move past the jargon of their graduate seminars, rediscover their love of literature, and teach with passion how artists create human interactions that no other speech acts can, especially in that most beautiful, but most underrated literary genre—the short story.”

The hosts of the conference, Michelle Ryan-Sautour, of University of Angers, and Ailsa Cox, of Edge Hill University, made all the participants most welcome. It was one of the most cordial and intimate conferences I have ever attended. The wonderful French food and wine contributed not a little to the pleasure, as you might imagine. The banquet on Friday night as a special treat, held at a unique restaurant called LES CAVES DE LA GENEVERAIE, which is actually in a series of interrelated caves in a farming area outside of Angers. You can read about it at http://genevraie.troglodyte.infor

It was a pleasure to have my eldest daughter on the trip with me. We spent four days in Paris after the three days in Angers, seeing the usual sights. I am posting a few pictures, one of me in front of the bookstore Shakespeare and Company, which is only a few blocks from our hotel on the Left Bank in the Latin Quarter, near the Sorbonne and Notre Dame. Pardon the inevitable postings of a tourist.

I will post an entry next week on the guest short story writer at the conference, Toby Litt.


Sandra said...

Hi Charles,
I was wondering if in your experiences in Canada and France recently regarding the short story you have knowledge of contemporary French writers of the short story. I can read some level of French (currently taking speaking classes to improve that skill) and would like to read some short stories in French and/or English translation. Sometimes it feels that the Americans have a corner on short story publications. My interest is in contemporary, mid to late 20th century on. Your views and insights have helped me grow in understanding this story form. Thanks, Sandra Rouse

Charles E. May said...

Hi, Sandra. Thanks for writing. I am sorry to say I am no expert on contemporary French short fiction. However, if you are primarily interested in mid to late 20th century short fiction, you might check the couple of volumes in the Penguin Parallel editions entitled French Short Story. I think you can find them on Amazon, and I know that one of them focuses on 20th century. In my recent trip to France, I felt woefully inadequate as I walked by the book stalls that line the Seine near Notre Dame. I did, however, find, lots of English short story collections in the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore. Thanks for your kind comments, Sandra. I am happy that my thoughts on the short story have been helpful to you.

Perfco said...

Hello - Have just discovered both this blog, and Sandra's query.

Do try Annie Saumont. The best are superb.

There's one complete collection translated into US English, and a couple of stories in the two Helen Constantine collections Paris Metro Tales), though they aren't the best ones. There's a further translation of the story 'Seife aus Paris' here:

Best wishes,


artsnook said...

Hello Charles
Thank you very much for your blog and publications! I'm a researcher looking at the short story and literary journals in Australia and I'm eager to see your essay from the Angers conference when it's published... Looking at the journals mentioned on the conference website, there's no sign of it. Do you have any clues?
Many thanks again,
Imogen Smith

Charles E. May said...

Hi, artsnook. I checked with the folks in Angers, and they say the special issue with my essay and others from the conference should be out in the fall. I will post it's release date when I know for sure. Thanks for your interest.