ENGL379P - Special Topics in Literature; Contemporary Short Stories
0101 - Nicole Hirschfelder

The short story is frequently referred to as the American genre (** note: just in case it doesn't show: "the" in "the American genre" should be in italics**). While we will explore a variety of possible reasons for this claim through secondary readings and class discussions, the sheer number of great short stories by American authors might already suffice to justify that label. Since its inception in the United States, roughly around 1800, the genre of the short story has gradually evolved and taken on a variety of narrative styles and forms. In this class, we will begin with a historical approach. We will read classics, such as “Rip Van Winkle” and also learn about early ideals of this genre through non-fictional texts, e.g. Poe’s “The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale.” We will then learn more about short stories from a variety of literary periods, such a Realism or Modernism and continue reading several short stories by authors that reflect the United States in its diversity, covering established as well as new or lesser known authors. This chronological approach will provide us with a solid basis to inquire into the development of the short story as a dynamic genre and help us gain a better understanding of new approaches to short fiction towards the end of the semester. The short stories we will read in this class will deal with many facets of life: friendship, conflict, love, religion, gender, race, various sexual orientations, class, sports, etc. This class will offer a safe space for students to explore a great number of issues with an open mind but from a scholarly distance through the analysis of fiction.