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The American Short Story: Its History, Richness, and Artistry

ENGL 006.900
T 4:30-7:40

The short story is recognized as a distinct art form, a type of prose fiction noteworthy not only for its length but for the artistic goals it strives to achieve. Edgar Allan Poe, one of its greatest proponents, believed that a “tale”—what we now call a short story—should be readable in one sitting so that the mind can comprehend its entirety at once. Poe and others have found that the economy and impact of the short story make it the preferred vehicle for their artistic expression, and these authors include many successful novelists. In this course, we will survey the American short story through its long history, beginning with Poe and his contemporaries, and ending with late twentieth-century authors. We will observe how the short story developed and examine how America’s diverse pool of authors expanded the art form in new ways. We will read and discuss approximately ten short stories and one slightly longer work, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw. The course will require you to write and revise four short essays on topics related to the readings. Classes will include group discussions, peer review, and writing workshops, with an emphasis on improving essay writing skills.