A Short Short Theory

by Robert Olen Butler

I agree with Mr. Butler's theory entirely. Having written narrative fiction (as well as non-fiction), I have struggled with the semantics of the essay/prose poem/short short genres. By introducing the notion of yearning, from its literal origin to its conceptual application in character development (that universal sense of the quest for epiphany), Butler's theory will serve as an excellent tool for describing that literary distinction I have often sought. Thanks.

I do not agree with Mr. Butler's theory entirely, at least not in the manner he has used epiphany. "Shining forth" is not my understanding of the experience Joyce was talking about, which is closer to an opening to, or revelation, of truth. The character experiences a sudden clear understanding of that yearning--that which he seeks becomes clear. Perhaps we are saying the same thing. I thank Mr. Butler for opening a path.

Beautifully stated. "Yearning" is the root.

This view of Butler's is not new. It is just the rephrasing or restatement of Aristotle's classic view that character is desire, and that plot is simply the events that occur to counter that character's desire(s); hence generating conflict!!!

Mr. B is one of those rare "literary" types whose work I love to hear and read. He gets it. His characters want something.


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