The Emergence of the Short Story in the Nineteenth Century Criticism: The American Short Story - Essay

Fred Lewis Pattee (essay date 1923)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

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,...

(The entire section is 6345 words.)

N. Bryllion Fagin (essay date 1936)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

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.]


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....

(The entire section is 4749 words.)

Robert F. Marler (essay date May 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 6936 words.)

Eugene Current-Garcia (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

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...

(The entire section is 8098 words.)

Andrew Levy (essay date 1993)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

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.


(The entire section is 9033 words.)