The Emergence of the Short Story in the Nineteenth Century
The Emergence of the Short Story in the Nineteenth Century
Generally viewed by scholars as an invention of the nineteenth century, the modern short story has been described as a compact prose narrative designed to elicit a singular and unified emotional response. As such, critics have made formal distinctions between the short story and its generic predecessor, the tale, a short narrative sometimes of oral origin. Likewise, commentators have contrasted the short story with the lengthier novella and novel, both of which typically feature a greater complexity of themes, multiple characters, and intersecting lines of plot. European and American writers first articulated the formal qualities of the modern short story in the second quarter of the nineteenth century, which coincided with the rapid proliferation of periodical publication in the industrializing nations of the western world at this time, and thus it is thought to have been broadly influenced by economic as well as literary stimuli. Early innovations in the genre appeared in the short fictional prose of such writers as Prosper Mérimée, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Walter Scott, and Nikolai Gogol, to name only a few. Following differing but parallel lines of development in France, the United States, Britain, Russia, and elsewhere, the short story is traditionally thought to have reached a peak of maturity in continental Europe during the late nineteenth century with the Naturalistic pieces of Guy de Maupassant and Anton Chekhov, and a generation later in English with the publication of outstanding Modernist works in the Anglo-American tradition.
Washington Irving is considered a seminal writer of short fiction in the United States, with his collection of tales called the Sketch Book (1820) often described as a foundational text. Including the outstanding pieces “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” the Sketch Book foreshadowed the future development of the short story in America with its blend of incisive wit, satire, and narrative virtuosity. After Irving, scholars generally focus on Edgar Allan Poe as a crucial figure in the development of the short story. In his 1842 essay on Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales (1837) Poe outlined the principal features of the genre, claiming that it should be readable in one sitting and that its effect, similar to that of lyric poetry, should be singular and total, designed to evoke a primary emotional reaction in the reader. Additionally, Poe's writings, such as his seminal stories of psychological horror and detective fiction collected in Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840) and later volumes, exemplified his evolving theories. Meanwhile, Hawthorne's short stories in Twice-Told Tales and Mosses from an Old Manse (1846) offered an innovative blend of allegorical symbolism and internalized character study that, while not immediately successful with American audiences, proved immensely influential. In addition to the psychological works of Hawthorne and Poe, the pieces collected in Herman Melville's Piazza Tales (1856), including the stories “Bartleby, the Scrivener” and “Benito Cereno,” illustrated a continued transition toward increased realism, internalized delineation of character, and narrative distance in American prose fiction. Following the Civil War, the short story market in the United States became increasingly dominated by the regional tales of local colorists. Beginning with Bret Harte and his gritty sketches of mining camp life in California, the local color movement developed from the literary efforts of such writers as Harte, George Washington Cable, Thomas Nelson Page, Kate Chopin, and many others to depict the daily existence of ordinary Americans in prose fiction. Portraying the varied regional settings of provincial America with near-journalistic verisimilitude, the local color authors were broadly successful, particularly in the 1880s and 1890s, although the movement had largely run its course by the turn of the century. About this time, William Dean Howells expressed a feeling, shared by many at the time, that American writers on the whole had taken the short story form nearest to perfection. While this assertion remains open to debate, scholars have since agreed that the new genre was eminently suited to the tastes of the reading public in the United States during the nineteenth century.
The development of short narrative prose in nineteenth-century England was hindered by the popularity of the sprawling Victorian novel. In many cases the proponents of the British short story were themselves dedicated novelists, figures like Charles Dickens, George Eliot, and Thomas Hardy, who favored this lengthier and more expansive form. The creation of condensed narratives designed to produce an immediate emotional response, however, was not uncommon. Sir Walter Scott, another writer more generally remembered for his novels, offered a significant precursor of the modern short story in Britain with “The Two Drovers” (1827). Cited for rising above the level of mere anecdote to produce a simple yet totalizing thematic effect, the story sought to elicit what critics would later view as the defining quality of the modern short story. By the 1830s, compact tales of Gothic horror by writers like Edward Bulwer-Lytton and the Anglo-Irish Sheridan Le Fanu began to appear in British literary magazines and increasingly captured the attention of reading audiences. Scholars have noted, however, that the nineteenth-century highpoint of British short fiction would not arrive until the last quarter of the century and the publication of realistic sketches set in exotic locales by Robert Louis Stevenson and later by Rudyard Kipling.
The development of the short story in nineteenth-century France and Russia can generally be aligned with the gradual predominance of the Naturalist mode in prose fiction. In France, the compact and detached narratives of Prosper Mérimée redefined the French short story, or conte, in the late 1820s. Mérimée's “Mateo Falcone” (1829), which recounts a violent and tragic clash of honor between father and son with lucid simplicity and economy, is usually considered a pivotal piece. Other significant short stories were composed by Honoré de Balzac and Gustave Flaubert, whose short fiction reflects in miniature the artistic achievements usually associated with their more well-known contributions to the realistic novel. Additional French short-story writers of note include Alfred du Musset, Alphonse Daudet, and Théophile Gautier. While acknowledging the accomplishments of these and other writers, many critics have reserved their highest esteem for the famed realistic stories of Guy de Maupassant, who in the 1880s and early 1890s concentrated his talents in the genre, effectively liberating it from the last vestiges of Romanticism to produce startling, lyrical stories admired for their clarity, unity, and compression. In two of his most famous pieces, “Boule de suif” (1880; “Ball of Fat”) and “La Parure” (1884; “The Necklace”), Maupassant produced penetrating studies of character, and with them is thought to have perfected the realistic short story in the late nineteenth century. The development of Russian short fiction followed a similar pattern. Mid-century innovators such as Nikolai Gogol, Ivan Turgenev, and Aleksandr Pushkin published works of increasing realism and stylistic precision, and in so doing formed a tradition that was to culminate in the detailed, observant, and often ironic sketches of daily life found in the prose masterpieces of Anton Chekhov. Elsewhere in Europe and in other parts of the globe, the short story genre followed comparable trends, in large part reflected in stylistic developments associated with the shift from Romanticism to Realism and Naturalism which was united with the contributions of a regionalist impulse inspired by the local color writers.
Machado de Assis
“Missa do Galo” (short story) 1899
Honoré de Balzac
“El Verdugo” (short story) 1830
In the Midst of Life: Tales of Soldiers and Civilians (short stories) 1891
“The Haunters and the Haunted” (short story) 1859
George Washington Cable
Old Creole Days (short stories) 1879
“Poceluj” [“The Kiss”] (short story) 1887
Lydia Maria Child
“The Quadroons” (short story) 1842
Bayou Folk (short stories) 1894
Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain)
“The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” (short story) 1865
Lettres de mon moulin: Impressions et souvenirs [Letters from My Mill] (short stories) 1869
“El matadero” (short story) 1838
Trois contes [Three Tales] (short stories) 1877
“The Old Nurse's Story” (short story) 1852
“Une nuit de Cléopâtre” [“One of Cleopatra's Nights”] (short story) 1838
“Shinel” [“The Overcoat”] (short story) 1842
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SOURCE: Matthews, Brander. The Philosophy of the Short Story, 11-27. London: Longmans, 1901.
[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1885, Matthews makes distinctions between the formal qualities of the short story and those of the novel, highlighting the ingenuity, compression, and overall “unity of impression” of the short story.]
If it chance that artists fall to talking about their art, it is the critic's place to listen, that he may pick up a little knowledge. Of late, certain of the novelists of Great Britain and the United States have been discussing the principles and the practice of the art of writing stories. Mr. Howells declared his warm appreciation of Mr. Henry James's novels; Mr. Stevenson made public a delightful plea for Romance; Mr. Besant lectured gracefully on the Art of Fiction; and Mr. James modestly presented his views by way of supplement and criticism.1 The discussion took a wide range. With more or less fullness it covered the proper aim and intent of the novelist, his material and his methods, his success, his rewards, social and pecuniary, and the morality of his work and of his art. But, with all its extension, the discussion did not include one important branch of the art of fiction: it did not consider at all the minor art of the Short-story. Although neither Mr. Howells nor Mr. James, Mr. Besant nor Mr. Stevenson...
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Criticism: The American Short Story
SOURCE: Pattee, Fred Lewis. “The Discovery of the ‘Short-Story.’” In The Development of the American Short Story: An Historical Survey, pp. 291-306. New York: Harper, 1923.
[In the following excerpt, Pattee explores the work of several notable American short-story writers of the late nineteenth century, including Brander Matthews, W. D. Howells, Frank R. Stockton, Henry Cuyler Bunner, and Ambrose Bierce.]
The term “short story” (hyphenated as Matthews advised, or unhyphenated) as used to designate an independent literary form and not “a story that is merely short,” is a new addition to critical terminology, as recent, indeed, as the eighteen-eighties. Irving wrote “sketches” and “tales.” Poe travestied the Blackwood's type of tale under the title, “How to Write a Blackwood Article.” The North American Review in 1822 discussed Dana's The Idle Man and similar story collections in a critique entitled “Essay Writing.” Poe and Hawthorne wrote “tales”—Tales of the Folio Club, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, Seven Tales of My Native Land, The Twice-Told Tales. Poe in his much-quoted critique laid down rules not for the short story, but for “the tale proper,” “the short prose narrative requiring from half an hour to one or two hours in its perusal.” The terms persisted almost to our own times....
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SOURCE: Fagin, N. Bryllion. “The Short Story as a Reflection of American Life.” In America Through the Short Story, edited by N. Bryllion Fagin, pp. 3-19. Boston: Little Brown, 1936.
[In the following excerpt from the introduction to his collection of American short fiction, Fagin encapsulates the nineteenth-century development of the short story in the United States, detailing a variety of social, economic, and literary influences on the form.]
THE SHORT STORY
Definitions are dangerous. The short story has been defined and re-defined in “exact” terms, as if it were a rigid mold instead of the subtle pattern of a highly fluid art. Teachers, critics, and even literary historians have written books which teem with rules and laws for the writing and study of short stories, in spite of the fact that hardly a representative group of short stories, American or European, can be assembled which does not in some ways contradict these arbitrary definitions and invalidate these rules and laws. For the truth is that every artist—and at his best the short-story writer is an artist—creates his own rules in accordance with his temperament, purpose, and skill.
Even the term “short” cannot easily be defined. Edgar Allan Poe defined a “short” story as one which required “from a half-hour to one or two hours in its perusal”; William Dean Howells defined it...
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SOURCE: Marler, Robert F. “From Tale to Short Story: The Emergence of a New Genre in the 1850's.” American Literature 46, no. 2 (May 1974): 153-69.
[In the following essay, Marler asserts that the development of American short fiction in the 1850s is evidenced by the decline of the “tale” and the ascent of the “short story,” a significant change that was particularly discernible in the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Herman Melville.]
A wave of tales flooded American magazines during the expansive years of the 1850's. As art, all but a few of these works deserve the oblivion that time has bestowed, but because of them the period from 1850 to the beginning of the Civil War has been discredited and generally ignored in the history of American short fiction. As a result, the early evolution of the American short story from the magazine tale has been overlooked. In this essay, I propose as a broad hypothesis that the decay of the immensely popular tale fostered the development of the short story as a new genre. If as a total body the fiction has but little aesthetic appeal, that mediocrity prompted a substantial reaction in the decade's literary criticism and among writers of short fiction. Until mid-century, Irving, Poe, and Hawthorne dominated the field, but by 1850 Poe was dead and Irving and Hawthorne had all but abandoned the writing of tales. Melville's short works were...
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SOURCE: Current-Garcia, Eugene. “Irving Sets the Pattern.” In The American Short Story before 1850: A Critical History, pp. 25-41. Boston: Twayne, 1985.
[In the following excerpt, Current-Garcia focuses on the tales and sketches of Washington Irving, suggesting that while Irving “did not actually invent the short story, he set the pattern for the artistic re-creation of common experience in short fictional form” that was later employed and improved by Poe and Hawthorne.]
Did the American short story actually begin “in 1819 with Washington Irving,”1 as Pattee flatly asserts, or did Irving merely point the way toward its origin in the three collections of short prose narratives that made him famous in the 1820s? When he discovered with The Sketch Book that he “could turn out regularly books which readers were willing to buy regularly,”2 his professional status was assured. Yet it may be argued that the urge to exploit the bonanza reaped by that book prevented him from achieving in the next two—Bracebridge Hall and Tales of a Traveller—the mastery of short-story form foreshadowed in The Sketch Book. He came closer to such mastery in his third collection, but, ironically, when it was severely criticized he turned his talents in directions that appeared to offer surer profits and revived popularity.
The story of Irving's...
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SOURCE: Levy, Andrew. “Poe's Magazine.” In The Culture and Commerce of the American Short Story, pp. 10-26. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993.
[In the following excerpt, Levy details Edgar Allan Poe's formative influence on the American short story by examining the economic and artistic ideals of his proposed literary magazine.]
Naming is how the world enlarges itself. We might try the same with the thing at hand, calling it poe, for instance. “Me, I write poes,” one could say.
Russell Banks, “Toward a New Form,” Sudden Fiction, ed. Shapard and Thomas (1986) 245.
Any history of the development of the short story in America must begin with Edgar Allan Poe's review of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales in 1842. This is not because Poe necessarily invented the short story; but rather, because later generations of short story writers, editors, and students invented Poe as the founder of the genre. From perhaps 1885 to 1950, Poe's words were “universally quoted” and imitated with what H. S. Canby once called a “servility which would have amazed that sturdy fighter.”1 His review, in turn, was retrospectively canonized as the birthdate of the short story in America. And although this literary-historical reconstruction spent itself by mid-century, it was nevertheless so...
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Criticism: The Short Story In Great Britain And Ireland
SOURCE: Harris, Wendell V. “English Short Fiction in the 19th Century.” Studies in Short Fiction 6, no. 1 (fall 1968): 22‐45.
[In the following excerpt, Harris catalogues the prominent short story writers of the period 1830 to 1880, summarizing their representative works, and concludes with an overview of English and Irish Aesthetic fiction of the late nineteenth century.]
I must confess to having suffered considerable uneasiness in contemplating how to approach the great body of short fiction written during the years from 1830 to 1880; the resulting decision was to abandon all pretense of completeness and simply present a representative selection of significant writers.
The first is William Maginn, who, as one of the earliest contributors, helped set the tone of Blackwood's fiction and as one of the founders of Fraser's Magazine established policies that helped increase the popularity and importance of short fiction in England. The whole of Maginn's contributions to periodicals has yet to be identified and listed—he seems to have cared very little whether his name was attached to his work. Partially this is a result of the periodical practices of the time, and especially of the spirit surrounding Blackwood's: as A. L. Strout and others have pointed out, the editors and chief contributors enjoyed being mystifying about authorship.1 It was more...
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SOURCE: Baldwin, Dean. “The Tardy Evolution of the British Short Story.” Studies in Short Fiction 30, no. 1 (winter 1993): 23-33.
[In the following essay, Baldwin probes the economic and social factors that contributed to the slow development of the short story in nineteenth-century Britain.]
One of the more curious anomalies of literary history is why the short story was so late to blossom in Britain. By the 1840s the genre was already established in America, and within two decades it had taken root in Germany, Russia, and France. I am speaking here, of course, of the modern short story, defined loosely as Poe's story of “single effect,” not simply of fiction shorter than the typical novel. This modern story did not achieve prominence in Britain until the 1880s, even though Britain would appear especially likely to develop the genre, since during the period of the story's “invention,” if we may call it that, Britain was a world leader in the writing and dissemination of fiction. I believe that the late appearance of the modern short story in Britain can best be understood as a question of literary economics, and, in the essay that follows, I attempt to outline how the business of literary production, in combination with aesthetic and theoretical factors, retarded the evolution of the short story in Britain until late in the nineteenth century.
It must be admitted at the...
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SOURCE: Baldick, Chris. “The End of the Line: The Family Curse in Shorter Gothic Fiction.” In Exhibited by Candlelight: Sources and Developments in the Gothic Tradition, edited by Valeria Tinkler-Villani and Peter Davidson, pp. 147-57. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1995.
[In the following essay, Baldick examines several short British Gothic tales of the nineteenth century, focusing on the theme of family degeneration in these works.]
My purpose in this article is to examine briefly the fate of shorter Gothic fiction in nineteenth-century Britain, with particular reference to the degree of coherence it manages to sustain by resort to the theme of dynastic extinction.
The shorter Gothic tale is a form little studied outside the works of Poe. There are some good reasons for this neglect, principally the fact that it is largely parasitic upon the more substantial and complex tradition of the Gothic novel or romance proper. Whereas the line of novels from Walpole to Maturin at least forms a recognizably coherent phase of generic development (even if the story becomes more complicated later on), no such distinct tradition of short stories stands out either as an episode or as a clearly recognized line of development in nineteenth-century British fiction. What can be reconstructed, at best, is a succession of attempts to adapt and sustain Gothic effects in the shorter form; a succession which does...
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Criticism: Stories By Women In English
SOURCE: Hanson, Clare. “The Lifted Veil: Women and Short Fiction in the 1880s and 1890s.” Yearbook of English Studies 26 (1996): 135-42.
[In the following essay, Hanson argues that female short-story writers of the late nineteenth century reoriented the conventional narrative construction of the feminine.]
The short stories of the 1880s and 1890s were written in a period of emphasis on the moment and on the ephemeral, a spell of relaxation from the developmental narrative forms of the nineteenth century. It has often been argued that the popularity of the short form at this time was connected with the fact that this was a period of rapid social change, but Elaine Showalter makes the suggestion that the short story form may also have had a special significance for women writers:
For late-nineteenth-century women writers in particular, the short story offered flexibility and freedom from the traditional plots of the three-decker Victorian novel, plots which invariably ended in the heroine's marriage or her death. In contrast to the sprawling three-decker, the short story emphasized psychological intensity and formal innovation.1
It could be argued that the demise of the three-decker novel coincided with a challenge to the narrative of femininity which had been dominant earlier in the nineteenth century. The argument that...
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SOURCE: Koppelman, Susan. “A Preliminary Sketch of the Early History of U.S. Women's Short Stories.” Journal of American Culture 22, no. 2 (summer 1999): 1-6.
[In the following essay, Koppelman documents the generally neglected tradition of short fiction written by American women in the nineteenth century.]
My uncompleted research over the last 26 years has thus far turned up 839 U.S. women who published at least one volume of short stories between 1827, when Sally Wood published Tales of the Night in Portland, Maine, and mid-1993. My list of women who published at least one story between 1822 and 1993 is more than twice as long—more than 1800 women writers. Many of these women published enough stories to have filled several books, but their stories are, as yet, uncollected. (That is one of the ways that women's work is lost—it is published in ephemeral forms and never put between the covers of a book. The stories of writers such as Ada Jack Carver, Edwina Stanton Babcock, Pauline E. Hopkins, and Eliza Leslie should be available to contemporary readers.)
Despite this abundant and prolonged productivity, women's stories have been consistently under-represented and mis-represented in historical considerations and representations of the genre. In anthologies that include any stories by women (about one fourth of anthologies include no women at all), the...
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Criticism: The Short Story In France And Russia
SOURCE: Taylor, Una A. “The Short Story in France, 1800-1900.” Edinburgh Review, no. 445 (July 1913): 137-50.
[In the following essay, Taylor recounts the nineteenth-century shift in the French conte from the aesthetic compositions of Mérimée, Gautier, and Flaubert to the lucid simplicity of Maupassant's short stories.]
It was during the period when the genius of romanticism had saturated the public with exuberant rhetoric and eloquent sentimentalism, typified by Victor Hugo and George Sand, that the contes of Mérimée and Gautier revindicated, in different fashion and by opposite methods, the supreme value of form in composition and of that unity of effect which is twin to structural completeness. Neither, it is true, escaped the infection of contemporary taste. The infatuation of the monstrous and the exceptional possessed the imaginations of both writers, and the themes they selected by preference are insulated by abnormality of character and incident, or detached by remoteness of time and place, from ordinary experience. Mérimée's pages are dyed with sanguinary extravagances, as in ‘Carmen,’ ‘Les Âmes du Purgatoire,’ and ‘Lokis’; Gautier portrays to satiety the Byronic frenzies of sensuous passion in his ‘Fortunio,’ ‘Le Roi Candaule,’ and ‘La Morte Amoureuse.’
But apart from a similar tendency towards the exotic and the abnormal, and...
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SOURCE: Engstrom, Alfred G. “The Formal Short Story in France and Its Development before 1850.” In Studies in Language and Literature, edited by George R. Coffman, pp. 249-60. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1945.
[In the following essay, Engstrom defines the French short story (conte), and chronicles early works in this genre by Mérimée, Balzac, and Gautier.]
The first half of the 19th century saw the formal evolution and early development of the modern short story.1 Much of the best brief fiction published during these years differs greatly in both form and content from that which came before; but there is notable disagreement as to the nature of the difference between the new fiction and the old and as to the terminology to be employed in discussing the different forms. These problems are especially puzzling in a study of French literature; for the short story has never been formally isolated in French theory, and there is persistent confusion of the essential generic terms Conte and Nouvelle.2 The present study is intended primarily to define and establish the modern short story as a distinct literary form in French literature and to trace its historical background and development before 1850.
Individual French critics are not of much help in identifying the short story. At best they either...
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SOURCE: George, Albert J. “Conclusion.” In Short Fiction in France, 1800-1850, pp. 225-35. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1964.
[In the following excerpt, George focuses on the formal transformation of the French conte into the modern short story in the first half of the nineteenth century.]
During some fifty years of anguished travail, French short fiction slowly groped its way to mature respectability. In that relatively short time it managed to overcome the taint of plebeian origins which for centuries had kept the brief narrative in literary limbo. Long-deferred change overtook time-honored but limited forms when the coincidence of a technological revolution with major political and social disruptions forced early nineteenth-century writers to transform the conte into a more supple instrument for artistic communication.
When the age of romanticism opened, French writers firmly held to a premise established by classical theorists, namely, that form somehow preceded content, from which it could exist separately. As a result, critics had established almost sacrosanct categories and hierarchies for poetry and the drama. Prose had received only cursory attention, principally because of the seventeenth century's determined orientation toward verse. Even during the Enlightenment, after the surprising success of Manon Lescaut, when men like Voltaire honed the...
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SOURCE: Baldeshweiler, Eileen. “The Lyric Short Story: The Sketch of a History.” Studies in Short Fiction 6, no. 4 (summer 1969): 443-53.
[In the following excerpt, Baldeshweiler analyzes the so-called “lyrical” short story as represented by the short fiction of Turgenev and Chekhov.]
When the history of the modern short story is written, it will have to take into account two related developments, tracing the course of the larger mass of narratives that, for purposes of clarification we could term “epical,” and the smaller group which, to accentuate differences, we might call “lyrical.” The larger group of narratives is marked by external action developed “syllogistically” through characters fabricated mainly to forward plot, culminating in a decisive ending that sometimes affords a universal insight, and expressed in the serviceably inconspicuous language of prose realism. The other segment of stories concentrates on internal changes, moods, and feelings, utilizing a variety of structural patterns depending on the shape of the emotion itself, relies for the most part on the open ending, and is expressed in the condensed, evocative, often figured language of the poem. In present day literary theory, the term “lyric” refers of course not so much to structure as to subject and tone, and it is mainly to these aspects of the brief narrative that the adjective is meant to call...
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SOURCE: Sachs, Murray. Introduction to The French Short Story in the Nineteenth Century: A Critical Anthology, edited by Murray Sachs, pp. 3-13. New York: Oxford University Press, 1969.
[In the following excerpt, Sachs considers the crystallization of the modern short story in French literature around 1830.]
As a literary art form, the short story emerged even later among the Western literatures than did its late-blooming next-to-kin, the novel. We generally think of the modern novel as an eighteenth-century development, mainly in France and England. But the modern short story did not crystallize into a recognizable genre until a full century later, with the work of Nodier, Mérimée, and the first generation of Romantics in France, and with the work of Hawthorne and Poe in the United States.
This late emergence of the short story form is a rather startling fact of literary history, when one stops to think about it. For storytelling is, after all, a very ancient art. Narrative has always been a staple element in every form of literary expression, both oral and written.1 It seems incredible, therefore, that it took so many centuries of trial and error to hit upon the literary form in which man's storytelling propensity could become artistically viable. Yet trial and error is what the history of brief narrative amounts to, before the emergence of the modern short story. The...
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Criticism: The Latin American Short Story
SOURCE: Severino, Alexandrino E. “Major Trends in the Development of the Brazilian Short Story.” Studies in Short Fiction 8, no. 1 (winter 1971): 199-208.
[In the following excerpt, Severino considers the short fictional writings of Machado de Assis and Afonso Arinos de Melo Franco, highlighting developments in the Brazilian short story from the late nineteenth century to the early Modernist period.]
In spite of story telling's being so much a part of Brazilian culture, the short story, as an art form, was slow to develop as an acceptable literary mode of expression. The Brazilian writer, until recently, regarded the short story as being more apt for children's ears than for the serious pursuit of imaginative literature. Machado de Assis (1839-1908), Brazil's first important short story writer—to some the best the country has ever known—commented in 1873 on the short story writer and the public's attitude toward the genre: “It's a difficult form, in spite of its apparent facility; I think this illusion of ease is harmful to the short story, for it tends to turn the writer away; the reading public, in turn, fails to give it the attention it deserves.”
Machado de Assis did give the short story the attention it deserved, and in his hands it became a most vital part of the Brazilian literary tradition. The setting of his stories is the capital city of Rio de Janeiro—the seat...
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SOURCE: Lindstrom, Naomi. “The Spanish American Short Story from Echeverria to Quiroga.” In The Latin American Short Story: A Critical History, Margaret Sayers Peden, pp. 35-70. Boston: Twayne, 1983.
[In the following excerpt, Lindstrom surveys the major nineteenth-century Latin American short-story writers, from the Argentinean Romantic Esteban Echeverria to the Cuban Modernist José Marti.]
Spanish American writing may be said to begin with the letters of Christopher Columbus; yet the first piece that can be considered a short story is Esteban Echeverría's 1838(?) “El matadero” (The Slaughtering Grounds). Looking at the year in which the Argentine author is believed to have composed this famous work, one may well wonder how Latin American literature could have developed for over three centuries without producing any brief narrative fiction suitable for consideration in an overview of the continent's short story.
The most obvious of possible answers to this question is that Latin American intellectuals, however talented with words, found relatively little occasion to cultivate such an artistic form. The hectic succession of real-world dilemmas facing educated individuals impelled them toward more pragmatic forms of writing, documents intended to communicate meaning in an immediately useful way. The earliest writings to reflect the...
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Weixlmann, Joe. American Short-Fiction Criticism and Scholarship, 1959-1977: A Checklist. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1982, 625 p.
Provides a bibliography of secondary literature on American short fiction containing nearly 7,000 entries principally organized by author.
Allen, Walter. “The Modern Story: Origins, Background, Affinities.” In The Short Story in English, pp. 3-23. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981.
Lists the principal qualities of the modern short story and describes numerous seminal works of the genre from the nineteenth century.
Austin, Mary. “The Folk Story in America.” South Atlantic Quarterly 33, no. 1 (January 1934): 10-19.
Summarizes the fundamental aspects of Native American folk tales, with an anecdotal discussion of their relationship to short story publication in the United States.
Cobb, Palmer. “Edgar Allan Poe and Friedrich Spielhagen. Their Theory of the Short Story.” Modern Language Notes 25, no. 3 (March 1910): 67-72.
Considers the essential equivalence of Poe's theories of the short story and Spielhagen's delineation of the properties of lyric poetry.
Cross, Ethan Allen. The Short Story: A Technical and Literary Study, 6th ed....
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