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Short Story

ENGL 103.601
instructor(s):
R 6-9

According to Edgar Allan Poe, the demands of modern life dampen the possible impressions left by a long novel on its reader. For him, the short story offers its readers an experience both dense as well as consumable in a single, unbroken span of time. In this course, we will examine to what extent the short story responds to specifically modern conditions: mass reproduction, the culture of magazines, and the commodification of art. At the same time, we will pay attention to the genre's continuity with traditional forms, such as the oral tale and the parable, as well as to its relationship to the novella and novel. Importantly, we will see how the story's ties to tradition and modernity shift from culture to culture, from 19th century America to 20th century Africa. In this way, we can begin to understand the short story as a model passed down through time and across cultural boundaries, while at the same time discovering how artists, publishers, and social contexts have shaped and reshaped the form. We will study stories within the context of their original magazine publications (for example, in The New Yorker, Playboy, or The Atlantic) as well as within the larger authorial structures of story collections (such as James Joyce's Dubliners) and anthologies (e.g. The Best American Short Stories of 2003). Other possible authors include: Heinrich von Kleist, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Anton Chekhov, Jorge Luis Borges, Nadine Gordimer, Bessie Head, Donald Barthelme, Salman Rushdie, Toni Cade Bambara, and Irvine Welsh. We may also read brief critical works by Edgar Allan Poe, Anton Chekhov, Walter Benjamin, M. M. Bakhtin, Pierre Bourdieu, and others. Requirements will involve: (a) 6 short quizzes on the readings; (b) one 5-7 page paper and one 8-10 page paper; (c) listserv postings; (d) an in-class presentation.