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Possibility-Space and Its Imaginative Variations in Alice Munro's Short Stories
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of English.
Responsible organisation
2008 (English)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

With its perennial interest in the seemingly ordinary lives of small-town people, Alice Munro’s fiction displays a deceptively simple surface reality that on closer scrutiny reveals intricate levels of unexpected complexity about the fundamentals of human experience: love, choice, mortality, faith and the force of language. This study takes as its main purpose the exploration of Munro’s stories in terms of the intricacy of emotions in the face of commonplace events of life and their emerging possibilities. I argue that the ontological levels of fiction and reality remain in the realm of the real; these levels exist and merge as the possibilities of each other. Munro’s realism is explored in terms of its connection to possibilities that arise out of a particular type of fatality.

The phenomenon of possibility permeates Munro’s stories. An investigation of this phenomenon shows a curious paradox between possibility and necessity. In order to discuss the complexity of this paradox I introduce the temporal/spatial concept of possibility-space and notions of the fatal. I describe the space that materializes in the phenomenal field between text and reader, and where the constitution of possibility becomes visible. This is typically seen in the rupture that is the event, where the event in itself offers a moment of release and epistemic certainty to the characters. I argue that through this release and certainty the characters obtain a radical, audacious sense of freedom and intensity of life.

The stories examined have been grouped in a conceptual order that brings into view the central qualities of Munro’s fiction such as lightness, newness and sameness. These qualities are related to the act of recognition; they are elaborated through readings of a large number of stories from all the collections, including three stories published recently in The New Yorker. The dissertation concludes by highlighting these qualities in the tour de force “Post and Beam.” I argue finally that Alice Munro’s fiction recognizes life as possibility in a moment when it shows itself in its own remarkable sameness.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Engelska institutionen , 2008. , 192 p.
Keyword [en]
Alice Munro, fate, possibility-space, compellation, phenomenology, Canadian literature, short story, realism, Alain Badiou, Maurice Natanson
National Category
Specific Languages
Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8292ISBN: 978-91-7155-770-4OAI: diva2:199991
Public defence
2008-12-13, hörsal 11, hus F, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2008-11-21 Created: 2008-11-21 Last updated: 2010-10-21Bibliographically approved

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