Tools for analysing the contemporary short story cycle: small moments, unfinished endings, metatextual elements



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of the Arts, English and Media


With reference to contemporary short story cycles (published post-2000), this dissertation proposes a genre definition of this literary cycle based on the identification of three key techniques: small moments, unfinished endings, and metatextual elements. The genre study builds on the work of short story cycle theorists Forrest L. Ingram and Gerald Lynch by using Wolfgang Iser’s narratology theories about the ways a text can influence the reader. Small moments are broken into three categories—phrase repetition, event repetition, and character repetition—which instigate moments of connection where the reader is positioned to create links not explicitly stated in the cycle. Unfinished endings are made up of the pivotal story and the return story and describe the ways the small moments build throughout the cycle. The metatextual elements occur when the short story cycle comments on its own nature as a work of fiction, using self-reflexivity to create further engagement with the reader. The cumulative effect of these key techniques is the cycle becomes a ring in the mind of the reader, so the beginning is irretrievably connected to the end, and it becomes impossible to discern where the stories end and the reader’s input begins.


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Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.