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Modernist Short Story

ENGL 016.301

Edgar Allan Poe established the modern short story as a brief narrative designed to thrill its reader with sensational action and a candid view of the human psyche's murky underside.  Poe's multiple legacies (gothic fiction, ghost story, whodunit, medical fantasy, adventure tale) were extended and developed in the nineteenth century, and elevated by modernist writers into the basis for a self-consciously artistic form that blends outward adventure with psychological insight, climax with anti-climax, while keeping the action within a single, compact frame.  The first half of the twentieth-century saw some of the greatest short-story writing of the modern period, vivid with new experiences and alive with stylistic experimentation.  In this seminar, we will read stories and story-sequences by James Joyce, William Faulkner, Franz Kafka, Katherine Mansfield, Willa Cather, Sherwood Anderson, and Jean Rhys.   We begin with detective fiction (Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes tales) and modernist precursors (Poe and Anton Chekhov);  we will end with the resurgence of moral realism after 1950, studying writers concerned with fundamental questions of good and evil (Flannery O'Connor, Muriel Spark, Shirley Jackson).  Along the way, we will ask what makes memorable stories tick, how story-sequences compare to novels, and why the novel (a genre in which many of our writers were accomplished experts) came in the long run to eclipse short stories in the world of fiction. Written requirements will include one 5-page critical essay, one 10-page critical essay, and five informal response papers.

fulfills requirements
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major