The Ditchwalk Book Club is reading and discussing Rust Hills’ seminal work, Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular. Announcement here. Overview here. Tag here.
If you’re a James Joyce fan you’re in for a treat in this section. If not, you may be tempted to blow past the historical footnotes, but that would be a mistake.
Hills does spend time framing the roots of the word ‘epiphany’ and explaining how it came to be used in literary circles. But he also makes an important point about epiphany as a literary objective:
The epiphany (whether considered as a technique or an effect or a theory or a genre) is a much more useful concept for the short story than it is for the novel.
In this case the technique Hills is talking about is not directly portable to larger works. But what about flash fiction? I don’t write flash myself, but if the whole point of a literary epiphany is the realization and illumination of a single condensed moment, doesn’t that objective fits perfectly within the constraints of the flash form? (Given Joyce’s original literary goals for his epiphanies he might even be considered the father of flash fiction.)