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Humanities 2019, 8(1), 11; https://doi.org/10.3390/h8010011

“The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past”: The Ambivalent Call of Nostalgic Memory in Richard Ford’s Short Story “Calling” (A Multitude of Sins, 2001)

1
Department of English Studies, Faculty of Languages, Université Jean Moulin, 69008 Lyon, France
2
Institute for Transtextual and Transcultural Studies, Université Jean Moulin, 69007 Lyon, France
Received: 22 October 2018 / Revised: 9 January 2019 / Accepted: 9 January 2019 / Published: 14 January 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Contemporary Nostalgia)
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Abstract

This article focuses on Richard Ford’s short story “Calling,” collected in the volume entitled A Multitude of Sins (2001). It consists of the detailed recalling by a first-person narrator, from the vantage point of adulthood, of a duck-hunting outing with his father at a moment of acute family crisis when he was still a teenager. This episode, redolent of America’s nostalgic motif of male bonding and father-son transmission in the midst of mythical American nature, is shown to have proved a pathetic failure at the time, and the story stages—to pick up Svetlana Boym’s famous distinction between two main types of nostalgia—the enlightening “reflective” effects of recalling this moment of “restorative” longing for the protagonist. However, the highly analytical narrator does not consciously dwell upon the peripheral yet disturbing presence of two grotesque characters that, I contend, are the locus of the implicit meaning of the text. Through precise textual reading and references to Southern Gothic, I indeed argue that the subtext of “Calling” invites the reader to journey back into a region’s (the South’s) troubled collective past and to question its own relation to nostalgia. “Calling” thus also stages the ambivalence of nostalgic longing on the collective plane as it shows willful nostalgic recollection wavering in the face of the return of the historical repressed, that of America’s ineffable original sin. View Full-Text
Keywords: nostalgia; Richard Ford; pastoral; southern gothic; grotesque nostalgia; Richard Ford; pastoral; southern gothic; grotesque
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Gay, M.-A. “The Past Is Never Dead. It’s Not Even Past”: The Ambivalent Call of Nostalgic Memory in Richard Ford’s Short Story “Calling” (A Multitude of Sins, 2001). Humanities 2019, 8, 11.

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