THE SHORT STORY

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THE SHORT STORY

As a distinct literary form the short story has existed for only about 150 years

During the 1600s and 1700s, most American prose consisted of accounts of travel &
exploration, histories, biographies, autobiographies, sermons, political tracts

Long works of fiction did not gain significant critical attention or wide readership until the
1820s, with the appearance of the novels of James Fenimore Cooper

Short stories published in magazines were very popular in the mid 1800s - early 1900s

It was not until Washington Irving's The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. was
published in 1820 that the short story or tale assumed a separate role in American literature;
for this creation, Irving deserves recognition as the American godfather of the form we know
today as the short story

Hawthorne, Melville, & Poe can be considered the fathers of the modern form of the short
story

What is the short story?
- an uncertain and ambiguous genre
- not a mini-novel
- not a simple tale or account of a simple incident
- not merely an anecdote or sketch

William Faulkner believed it was easier to write a novel than a short story because he could
be more careless; in a short story, almost every word must be exactly right

Edgar Allan Poe:
- short story should be able to be read in one sitting
(between 1/2 hour and 2 hours to read)
- during that time, the reader is at the writer's control;
free of external influences or interruptions
- writer attempts to create a "single dominant effect";
every word contributes to that "single effect"

Short stories are reflective of America
- the fragmentation, chaos, and diversity of American life
makes short stories a natural expression
- eager, hasty, impatient country responds to the minimal
time requirement of the short story

Short stories celebrate not only particular regions and ethnic strains of America, but also the
entire national personality
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