The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925: Theory of a Genre

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The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925 : Theory of a Genre

Free delivery worldwide. Bestselling Series. Harry Potter. Popular Features. New Releases. Description The ability to construct a nuanced narrative or complex character in the constrained form of the short story has sometimes been seen as the ultimate test of an author's creativity. Yet during the time when the short story was at its most popular-the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries-even the greatest writers followed strict generic conventions that were far from subtle.

These short pieces existed mostly in oral form and they were transmitted from one generation to another in oral form.

The Classic Short Story

A large number of such tales are found in ancient literature, from the Indian epics the Ramayana and the Mahabharata to the Homeric epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Arabian Nights , compiled for the first time probably in the eighth century, is also a storehouse of Middle Eastern folk tales and fairy tales. Emerging in the 17th century from oral storytelling traditions and above-mentioned written works of the ancient times which themselves are based on oral traditions , the short story has grown to encompass a body of work so diverse as to defy easy characterization.

With the rise of the realistic novel, the short story evolved in a parallel tradition, with some of its first distinctive examples in the tales of E. The character of the form developed particularly with authors known for their short fiction, either by choice they wrote nothing else or by critical regard, which acknowledged the focus and craft required in the short form. Another example is O. Henry author of " Gift of the Magi " , for whom the O. Henry Award is named.

Science fiction short story with a special poetic touch was a genre developed with great popular success by Ray Bradbury. The genre of the short story was often neglected until the second half of the 19th century. The evolution of printing technologies and periodical editions were among the factors contributing to the increasing importance of short story publications. An important theoretical example for storytelling analysis is provided by Walter Benjamin in his essay The Storyteller where he argues about the decline of storytelling art and the incommunicability of experiences in the modern world.

Short stories date back to oral storytelling traditions which originally produced epics such as the Ramayana , the Mahabharata , Homer 's Iliad and Odyssey. Oral narratives were often told in the form of rhyming or rhythmic verse , often including recurring sections or, in the case of Homer, Homeric epithets. Such stylistic devices often acted as mnemonics for easier recall, rendition and adaptation of the story. Short sections of verse might focus on individual narratives that could be told at one sitting. The overall arc of the tale would emerge only through the telling of multiple such sections.

The other ancient form of short story, the anecdote , was popular under the Roman Empire. Anecdotes functioned as a sort of parable , a brief realistic narrative that embodies a point.

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Many surviving Roman anecdotes were collected in the 13th or 14th century as the Gesta Romanorum. Anecdotes remained popular in Europe well into the 18th century, when the fictional anecdotal letters of Sir Roger de Coverley were published. In India, there is a rich heritage of ancient folktales as well as compiled body of short fiction which shaped the sensibility of modern Indian short story. Some of the famous Sanskrit collection of legends, folktales, fairy tales and fables are Panchatantra , Hitopadesha and Kathasaritsagara. Jataka tales , originally written in Pali , is a compilation of tales concerning the previous births of Lord Gautama Buddha.

The Frame story or frame narrative or story within a story is a narrative technique which probably originated in ancient Indian works such as Panchatantra. In Europe, the oral story-telling tradition began to develop into written stories in the early 14th century, most notably with Geoffrey Chaucer 's Canterbury Tales and Giovanni Boccaccio 's Decameron. Both of these books are composed of individual short stories which range from farce or humorous anecdotes to well-crafted literary fictions set within a larger narrative story a frame story , although the frame-tale device was not adopted by all writers.

At the end of the 16th century, some of the most popular short stories in Europe were the darkly tragic " novella " of Matteo Bandello especially in their French translation. The mid 17th century in France saw the development of a refined short novel, the "nouvelle", by such authors as Madame de Lafayette. In the s, traditional fairy tales began to be published one of the most famous collections was by Charles Perrault. The appearance of Antoine Galland 's first modern translation of the Thousand and One Nights or Arabian Nights from ; another translation appeared in —12 would have an enormous influence on the 18th-century European short stories of Voltaire , Diderot and others.

There are early examples of short stories published separately between and , but the first true collections of short stories appeared between and in several countries around the same period. The first short stories in the United Kingdom were gothic tales like Richard Cumberland 's "remarkable narrative" "The Poisoner of Montremos" Nathaniel Hawthorne published the first part of his Twice-Told Tales in Edgar Allan Poe wrote his tales of mystery and imagination between and Poe is often given the credit by scholars such as M.

Abrams of establishing short story as a genre of literature. In " The Philosophy of Composition " Poe argued that a literary work short story should be short enough for a reader to finish in one sitting.

In Germany, the first collection of short stories was by Heinrich von Kleist in and The Brothers Grimm published their first volume of collected fairy tales in Hoffmann followed with his own original fantasy tales, of which " The Nutcracker and the Mouse King " and " The Sandman " are the most famous. In the latter half of the 19th century, the growth of print magazines and journals created a strong demand for short fiction of between 3, and 15, words. Rudyard Kipling published short story collections for grown-ups, e.


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Plain Tales from the Hills , as well as for children, e. The Jungle Book Wells wrote his first science fiction stories in the s. One of his best known is " The Country of the Blind " At that same year, Matthews was the first one to name the emerging genre "short story". Another theorist of narrative fiction was Henry James. In the s Kate Chopin published short stories in several magazines. The most prolific French author of short stories was Guy de Maupassant.

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Nikolai Leskov created his first short stories in the s. Late in his life Fyodor Dostoyevski wrote " The Meek One " and " The Dream of a Ridiculous Man " , two stories with great psychological and philosophical depth. The greatest specialist of the Russian short story, however, was Anton Chekhov. Classic examples of his realistic prose are " The Bet " , "Ward No. Maxim Gorky 's best known short story is " Twenty-six Men and a Girl " In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century in India, Rabindranath Tagore published more than short stories, on the lives of the poor and oppressed such as peasants, women and villagers under colonial misrule and exploitation.

Tagore's contemporary, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was another pioneer in Bengali short stories. Chattopadhyay's stories focused on the social scenario of rural Bengal and the lives of common people, especially the oppressed classes. The prolific Indian author of short stories Munshi Premchand , pioneered the genre in the Hindustani language , writing a substantial body of short stories and novels in a style characterized by realism and an unsentimental and authentic introspection into the complexities of Indian society.

In he wrote " A Legend of Old Egypt ". The Brazilian novelist Machado de Assis was the most important short story writer from his country at the time, under influences among others of Xavier de Maistre , Lawrence Sterne , Guy de Maupassant. Writing about the former slaves, and very ironical about nationalism , Lima Barreto died almost forgotten, but became very popular in the 20th century.

In Portuguese literature, the major names of the time are Almeida Garrett and the historian and novelist Alexandre Herculano. Hector Hugh Munro — , also known by his pen name of Saki , wrote satirical short stories about Edwardian England. Somerset Maugham , who wrote over a hundred short stories, was one of the most popular authors of his time.

Wodehouse published his first collection of comical stories about valet Jeeves in Many detective stories were written by G. Chesterton , Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Short stories by Virginia Woolf are " Kew Gardens " and "Solid Objects," about a politician with mental problems. Graham Greene wrote his Twenty-One Stories between and A specialist of the short story was V.

Pritchett , whose first collection appeared in Arthur C. Clarke published his first science fiction story, " Travel by Wire! Evelyn Waugh , Muriel Spark and L.

Hartley were other popular British storytellers whose career started in this period. In Ireland, James Joyce published his short story collection Dubliners in These stories, written in a more accessible style than his later novels, are based on careful observation of the inhabitants of his birth city. The demand for quality short stories was so great and the money paid for such so well that F. Scott Fitzgerald repeatedly turned to short-story as Matthews preferred to write it writing to pay his numerous debts.

His first collection Flappers and Philosophers appeared in book form in William Faulkner wrote over one hundred short stories. Go Down, Moses , a collection of seven stories, appeared in Ernest Hemingway's concise writing style was perfectly fit for shorter fiction. Dorothy Parker 's bittersweet story "Big Blonde" debuted in A popular science fiction story is " Nightfall " by Isaac Asimov.


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  • The Classic Short Story, 1870-1925.

Katherine Mansfield from New Zealand wrote many short stories between and her death in In Uruguay , Horacio Quiroga became one of the most influentials short story writers in the spanish language, with a clear influence from Edgar Allan Poe , he had a great skill using the supernatural and the bizarre to show the struggle of man and animal to survive. He also excelled in portraying mental illness and hallucinatory states. In the latter wrote " A Hunger Artist ", about a man who fasts for several days.