Wednesday 27 February 2019

Call for Participants: Distributed Reader Study of Preclosure in the British Short Story

By Dan Powell


Preclosure sentences are those sentences within a story, prior to the story’s actual closing sentences where the reader feels the story could end. Preclosural method is an attempt to uncover what endings and the staging of closure can reveal about the cognitive processes experienced when reading a piece of short fiction. My research-led creative project examines how authors of short fiction employ preclosure in their work and investigates how preclosural method might inform the short story writing process.

Aims of this short research study:

  • to gather preclosural sentence selection data from multiple readers of four stories
  • to discover whether consensus exists between readers regarding the placement of closural sentences and the arrangement of putative stories within given stories.

As a participant in this short project, you will be asked to:

  • attend an introductory lecture presentation on ‘preclosure theory’ where you will learn how preclosure theory can be used in textual analysis and as a pedagogical tool. You will discover how the data from this study will be used to help to identify closural staging in the British short story and develop frames for the writer/practitioner of short fiction.
  • read four short stories (over a period of four-to-six weeks) – 'Tamagotchi' by Adam Marek; 'The Leafsweeper' by Muriel Spark; 'Markheim' by Robert Louis Stevenson; 'The Death Bed' by Amelia Opie.
  • while reading each story you will be asked to identify any sentences prior to the story’s final sentence where you feel the story could end. Each sentence of each story will be numbered to facilitate a quick and easy response and you will only be required to list the number of each sentence you identify in each story on the simple response form provided.
  • attend a closing presentation and discussion where the findings from your selections will be delivered. During this session you will have the opportunity to discuss the stories, your response to them, and the preclosural selections made by participants.

Attendance of the introductory session and your participation in the study will provide you with practical experience of and engagement with preclosure theory. Your participation in this project will develop and deepen your understanding of how authors structure narrative and how readers both perceive and interact with that structure. Experience of these ideas and their practical exploration will be of interest to all readers of fiction and useful to all students of narrative arts, in particular those studying literature and creative writing. 

The introductory session will be held on Weds 6 March at 11am in room CW2 BPA, Charles Wilson Second Floor LR Belvoir Park Annexe, University of Leicester, where the information above and other details of the Distributed Reader Study will be discussed to ensure you fully understand the aims and objectives of this short project, the narrative theory behind it, and your role in the gathering of the key data. Distance Learners at University of Leicester and participants from other institutions will be able to access the introductory session and the study materials digitally. 

If you are interested in taking part in this study, please contact Dan Powell:

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