Conference on the short story brings top authors to York University

The 11th annual International Conference on the Short Story in English will take place at York University from June 16 to 19. The conference brings together renowned writers and scholars in the areas of Irish, British, American, Australian, Caribbean, South-African, Indian, Sri Lankan, Indonesian and Canadian fiction – with special appearances and readings by some award-winning favourites, including Margaret Atwood, Alistair MacLeod and York’s own Rishma Dunlop.

Left: Alistair MacLeod

Participants will explore the ways in which the short story interconnects with other forms of literature as well as with other fields of art such as photography, painting, cinema and music. Through readings, round-table discussions, panels and workshops, they will discuss the variety of ways in which the short story is (and has been) embodied in history and geography. They will also investigate links between the production and consumption of literary works with the social, political, economic and other issues relevant to a given time and place.

Right: Rishma Dunlop returns to York for the conference. Since January, Dunlop has been at Arizona State University as the Canada-United States Fulbright Visiting Research Chair in Creative Writing. 

The theme of this year’s conference, inspired by Clark Blaise in his book Selected Essays, is “The Border as Fiction”. Borders are, typically, geographical, social, cultural and linguistic creations – sites of interaction that are dramatic and fictional, rich with hybrids of style, history, custom and convention. York English Professor Allan Weiss, the local organizer of the conference, says that the short story is a genre particularly suited to the exploration of borderlines and borderlands.

"The short story often deals with borderlands: characters who are on the fringes of society, places and situations that offer choices and alternatives, those moments when characters experience dramatic changes and new visions, and in a way enter new worlds," says Weiss. "In fact, many have said that the genre itself is a borderland, a site where the oral and the literary, the poetic and the fictional, the private and the public come together in dynamic ways." 

Left: Allan Weiss is the local organizer of the conference

Conference participants will examine the many borders the short story genre highlights, questions, reinterprets and reconciles. Topics include travel and the short story; fiction meets non-fiction; place, politics and post-colonialism; cultural identity; the body; history, memory and nostalgia; and fairy tales. Sessions will be held in traditional formats – including the presentation of papers – and in other formats that will involve performance, dance, art and film.

"This conference is unusual in that it is not a purely academic event," says Weiss. "From its origins in 1988, it has been a meeting place for authors and scholars who share a love for the short story and who seek to exchange ideas and words. The International Conference on the Short Story in English is special because it offers an equally congenial home to the creative writer and the academic – and of course many of us are both." 

Left: Canadian author Margaret Atwood will give a special reading at the conference

"We all come together as equals, united in our common appreciation of that small literary gem known as the short story," he says. "I’m proud to say that I have attended every conference, and I plan to maintain that record as long as I can. There’s simply nothing like it."

The conference is organized by The Society for the Study of the Short Story and hosted by York’s Department of English. For more information or to register, visit the International Conference on the Short Story in English Web site.