Digression in Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio (1919)

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Sherwood Anderson had strong reservations about the notion of plot and called it “The Poison Plot” in his memoirs, A Story Teller’s Story (1924). Instead what he thought was wanted was “form, not plot, an altogether more elusive and difficult thing to come at” (Anderson in Crowley 1990, 40). Anderson’s scepticism towards the importance of plot in fiction is not unique in the modernist period, to which his writings are normally said to belong. Nor is his insistence on what he calls form, intended to function as a replacement for plot. According to Peter Brooks in his seminal work Reading for the Plot (1984) the advent of Modernism brought on a “crisis” in the understanding of plots and plotting (Brooks 1984, 238). Brooks points out – while finding Conrad’s Heart of Darkness exemplary in this respect – that modernist literature “displays an acute self-consciousness about the organizing features of traditional narrative [among them plot in particular], working with them still, but suspiciously, with constant reference to the inadequacy of the inherited orders of meaning” (Brooks 1984, 238). But if plot enters a crisis in Modernism, alternative ways of organizing narrative were suggested. One of the solutions to the crisis of plot was, indeed, the substitution of form for plot. The popularity of the word in modernist discourse is witnessed by the status it acquired in modernist literary criticism, and where form was defined as something organic as opposed to what was considered plot’s factitious and formulaic nature.
Antal sider7
StatusUdgivet - 2003
BegivenhedAmerica in the World: Transnational Dimensions of Life and Culture in the United States: 18th biennial conference of the Nordic Association for American Studies - Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim, Tronheim, Norge
Varighed: 6 aug. 20039 aug. 2003
Konferencens nummer: 18


KonferenceAmerica in the World: Transnational Dimensions of Life and Culture in the United States
LokationNorwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim