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Revealing as concealing: The photographic flash of the epiphany in the modernist short story

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Despite a recent rise in interest in the history and material aesthetics of photographic flash, its relationship with the short story form is yet to be investigated. Such a critical gap exists even though there is an obvious association between a visual technology that seeks to expose the hidden and a genre knitted together with the notion of epiphany, a supposed moment of revelation. The focus of this article is directed towards the history of flash photography and its inherent aggression, apparent in the early technologies of the flashgun and the chemical compounds of flash powder (in steady use until the termination of their production in 1941, despite the coexistence of the flash bulb). Early flash erupts, bleaches and blinds, interfering with the illumination that it promised to establish: flash photography achieves disorientation, not lucidity. A photographic reading of the epiphany moment in examples of the modernist short story will therefore be stimulated, discussing how these moments, like instances of flash, actually hinder the acquisition of knowledge: both character and reader are left dazzled, rather than closer to the truth.
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Keywords: epiphany; flash; knowledge; modernism; photography; short story

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Aarhus

Publication date: 01 September 2018

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  • Short Fiction in Theory and Practice is an interdisciplinary journal celebrating the current resurgence in short-story writing and research. Looking at short fiction from a practice-based perspective, it explores the poetics of short-story writing, adaptation, translation and the place of the short story in global culture.
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