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Undergraduate English Courses

358:243 Introduction to the Short Story

01  TTH5  CAC  17361  EVANS  MU-204

This class will explore the history and the development of the short story, from earliest times to the present. We will start with Chaucer, and then move quickly to the nineteenth century as we look to understand what distinguishes the short story from stories that are merely short. Our attention will linger on the genre’s relationship to emergent mass culture—especially to the American periodicals of the late nineteenth-century credited at the time with providing venues for American authors to perfect their craft and enter into the world republic of letters. We will trace competing modes of short story writing, studying the divergent practice of writers like the Frenchman, Guy de Maupassant, and the Russian, Anton Chekhov. We will linger over masterful short story writers of the twentieth century, including James Joyce, Flannery O’Connor, John Cheever, Donald Barthelme, Dennis Johnson, Lydia Davis, Raymond Carver, Edwidge Danticat and Toni Cade Bambara. We will sample several different kinds of “genre” fiction, including hard-boiled detective stories and science fiction. The semester will conclude by reading one or two recent short story collections, published in the last few years, asking what it might mean to read stories as a part of sequence, and what, in that case, distinguishes the form from the novel.