Enormous changes : narrative strategies in Grace Paley's short fiction

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D'Errico, Jon M.
Goldman, Irene C.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of English
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Grace Paley's fiction has suffered from being labeled as (alternately) post-modernist and feminist. There is a critical assumption that post-modernist and feminist works are plotless because they are nontraditional. Plot has been defined in Aristotelian terms, and those terms have colored the thinking of critics who attempt to discuss non-Aristotelian plots. Ironically, even feminist critics who are keenly aware that language is empowerment use the traditional language of literary criticism to describe nontraditional plots.As a result, post-modernist and feminist narrative modes are seen as fragmentary. This judgment often as not is simply a reaction to the Aristotelian emphasis on the unity of plot. Literary "unity" is not, however, an antonym for "fragmentation." To assume that nontraditional works such as Paley's are fragmented is to ignore the stories. The opposite of literary unity is not fragmentation, but amalgamation.Similar critical assumptions are that Paley's work is plotless and carries no implicit meaning. Careful readings of the stories in question lay both of these assumptions to rest. The point here is to make reading and understanding the stories the first priority. To use the stories as merely a chance to apply theory is to do both theory and the stories a disservice.