'A Small Good Thing': The Short Story in the Old World and the New

30 points

Not offered 2023, offered in 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022

For further information see Humanities


The first theorist of the short story, Edgar Allan Poe, famously defined the form as something one might peruse at a single sitting. Like a poem, thought Poe, the story ought to achieve a 'unity of effect or impression', a kind of transient but intense excitement. Henry James saw in the form's brevity the 'science of control'; and while some readers enthused about the form's commitment to the moment, the event, the epiphany, others saw only a symptom of cultural fragmentation. This course examines the history and characteristics of the short story as it has been developed in the European and American traditions. More specifically, the course focuses on the relationship of the short story to some of the most persuasive ideas of modernity. Students will have an opportunity to read and place in context such greats of the form as Anton Chekov, Mark Twain, Nikolai Gogol, Poe, Flannery O'Connor, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, Alice Munro and David Foster Wallace. As the course progresses we will make our way through movements such as romanticism, modernism and postmodernism - all of which define themselves in relation to modernity - concluding with a selection of some of the most exciting new writers working in America.


Subject to approval of the Head of Department.