Edgar Allen Poe. “The Philosophy of Composition.” 1846. Critical Theory: The Major Documents. Eds. Stuart Levine and Susan F. Levine. Urbana: University of Illinois, 2009. Print.
Edgar Allen Poe’s 1846 essay, which reflects on what he argues are the elemental components of a work of creative writing, has been widely cited as one of the first critical texts on short story theory. Poe himself has been called the forefather of short fiction literary criticism, and his essay argues that writers must (1) take a decisive, methodological approach to creative works, (2) economically approach the length of creative works, and (3), strive for a sense of unity in each independent literary work.
Charles E. May, ed. The New Short Story Theories Athens: Ohio University Press, 1994. Print.
Charles E. May remains a well-known theorist of short fiction literary criticism. His comprehensive collection of literary theory on short fiction assembles commentary by both scholars and international short prose writers. Essays in the collection reflect on the characteristics of short fiction as a genre, the distinct relationship between reader and narrator in the precise space of the short story, and suitable approaches for critically anayzing the short story in its form and structure. The collection also includes essays on the short fictions of distinct literary periods (for example, Anton Chekhov and the modernist short story), as well as reflections on writing by celebrated short fiction writers across time, including Edgar Allen Poe, Nadine Gordimer, and Raymond Carver, among others.
Charles E. May. The Short Story: The Reality of Artifice. Toronto: Maxwell Macmillan Canada; New York: Maxwell Macmillan International; New York: Twayne, 1995. Print.
Charles E. May’s 1995 anthology discusses the appearance of the short story throughout history by anayzing its distinct adaptations in various literary periods. In discussing the evolution of the short story from some of its earliest iterations in the fourteenth century to its development throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to its role in contemporary literary society, May’s collection provides a comprehensive historical overview of the short story invaluable in understanding how short story form has evolved over time.
Lohafer, Susan and Jo Ellyn Clarey, eds. Short Story Theory at a Crossroads. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1989. Print.
Susan Lohafer and Jo Ellyn Clarey’s anthology invokes contemporary short story theorists and short prose writers in a series of essays and reflections on twentieth-century iterations of the short story and short story theory. A unifying argument that short prose has experienced radical evolution in contemporary literary culture pervades the essays of the anthology. Lohafer and Clarey thus suggest that the analytic frameworks and methodologies for approaching contemporary short fiction need also to evolve. Some of the included essays enter broader discussions of the definitive frameworks of short fiction as a genre, while others engage in more specific explorations of, for example, the role of first-person narrators in short fiction, morphological metaphors and the short story, and the novel-length short story sequence.
Boyd, William. “Brief Encounters.” The Guardian. 2 Oct. 2004. Web. 1 Nov. 2014.
William Boyd’s short but poignant article in The Guardian is an energetic and approachable discussion of the reader–writer relationship central to the short story, as well as the evolution of the short story across time. It invokes reflections by Anton Chekhov, William Faulkner, Jorges Luis Borges, and Vladimir Nabokov, on the exploratory narrative space of short prose. It is an ideal text to pair with academic ancillary materials as a more informal text.
The Guardian, Books, Short Stories section; in particular, the Podcast series: http://www.theguardian.com/books/series/short-stories-podcast.
The Guardian’s Short Stories section is an excellent mainstream media resource for accessible discourse surrounding the contemporary short story. As a multimedia resource, the section includes videos, short articles, reviews, news in short fiction and podcasts presented by The Guardian’s Saturday Review section, which features well-known contemporary authors reading treasured short stories by other writers.
Gallant, Mavis. “What is Style?” The Art of Short Fiction. Ed. Gary Geddes. Don Mills: Addison-Wesley, 1999. Print.
Mavis Gallant’s well-known essay reflects on style as an imperative component of literature, and has been widely cited by various literary audiences. The celebrated Canadian short story writer discusses the way in which style is as elemental to the short story as its form, structure, and narrative. She argues that style is one of the key components that generates a multi-faceted interaction with the reader. This short and accessible commentary thus becomes useful in the analysis of stylistic approaches to the short story across different literary and historical periods.
Geddes, Gary, ed. The Art of Short Fiction. Don Mills: Addison-Wesley, 1999. Print.
Canadian writer and literary critic Gary Geddes pairs his comprehensive collection of masterful short stories by celebrated international authors with a critical discourse section entitled “Writing on the Art of Fiction.” The section features essays by such authors as Joseph Conrad, Virginia Woolf, Anton Chekhov, Alice Munro, and Mavis Gallant, who reflect on the construction of form, narrative, and style in the short story, while also outlining key strategies for the critical reading and thoughtful analysis of short prose as a distinct genre.
Howe, Irving. “The Culture of Modernism.” The Decline of the New. San Diego: Harcourt Publishers Ltd., 1970. 3–33. Print.
In this essential modernist text, Irving Howe outlines major aesthetic and thematic components of modernist literature as a result of the political, cultural, and economic realities of the modernist age. Howe’s essay provides a useful entry point for studies in the modernist short fictions of Joseph Conrad, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway, among many others, enabling points of synthesis between various modernist writers and texts.
Knight, Peter. “DeLillo, postmodernism, postmodernity.” The Cambridge Companion to Don DeLillo, ed. John N. Duvall. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008. pp. 27-40. Print.
Peter Knight’s essay proposes a possible way of understanding the emergence of postmodernism as a cultural period that pervaded art and literature between approximately 1965 and 2000. Knight argues that postmodernism can be seen as a direct response to the decline of modernism and a departure from or evolution of the modernist aesthetic. Knight claims a sense of disappointment among artists and writers resulting from the inevitable commodification of avant-garde modernist art and literature, and a subsequent redefinition of aesthetics, narrative, and thematics in the wake of the shifting political, cultural, and economic realities of a new era. A such, Knight’s commentary and discourse provides a compelling entry point to the study of postmodern short prose texts.
Charters, Ann. The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2011. Print.
Accompanying Ann Charter’s anthology of short fiction is a comprehensive series of appendices with resources for critically reading, analyzing, and writing about short fiction. The various textual resources offer guidance for discerning prominent themes, aesthetics, and stylistic approaches in the short story and furthermore, for developing critical arguments and citing relevant evidence in short stories as a means of generating discourse. In this way, Charter’s assemblage of educational materials provides important methodologies for learners who may have not critically analyzed short prose as a distinct genre in their own academic discourse.