Chicago rising & Accretionary narratives: an exploration of the possibilities and potential problems of a contemporary genre

Carr, J.H.G (2018) Chicago rising & Accretionary narratives: an exploration of the possibilities and potential problems of a contemporary genre. PhD thesis, Bath Spa University.

Abstract

This thesis contains a creative and a contextual component. The creative paper is an example of what I call an "accretionary narrative" (a form of fragmented prose fiction I discuss in the contextual paper) set in nineteenth-century Chicago. How and why did Chicago, a mosquito-infested swamp with one log cabin that lay in the middle of nowhere, become America's second-largest city of 1.7 million people within a century? The first fragment is set in 1800 and tells a tale of land appropriation; the last fragment is set in 1900 with the secret opening of the largest and most complicated sanitary engineering project the world had ever seen. Between these disparate moments lies a web of connections that draw people and places together, and tells a story about the growth of a vast new city. In the contextual paper I examine a contemporary form of prose fiction in which diverse fragments interconnect and contribute towards the creation of a single unifying narrative. These are texts I call 'accretionary narratives'. I identify what are and what are not accretionary narratives, and discuss the uncertainty that exists over their classification among literary critics and within the book market where there are conflicting views over whether they should be categorised as 'novels' or 'short story collections'. Using three core texts as exemplars, I examine the common tendencies and techniques of accretionary narratives, and look into both the creative possibilities the form opens up, and the potential problems it can pose. Finally, I propose that texts sharing these tendencies should be judged participants in the same literary genre, and discuss why recognition of such a genre might be to the mutual benefit of both reader and writer. I also look ahead and consider how accretionary narratives might evolve in an age of digital writing.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: creative writing, accretionary narratives, fragmented prose, 19th century, USA, Chicago, cities, urban development, town planning, narrative, literary critics, publishing, literary genres, digital writing
Divisions: College of Liberal Arts
Date Deposited: 18 Oct 2018 11:00
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2018 11:00
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