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Higher Education

Ideological Categorization of Stories

Victorian Literature and The Gothic

  • Nathanael Hawthorne “Rappacini’s Daughter”
  • Edgar Allen Poe “The Fall of the House of Usher”
  • Gustave Flaubert “A Simple Heart”
  • Henry James “Europe”


The following stories hinge on the tropes of modernism, a literary period between roughly 1900 and 1965 (although such illuminated minds as Joseph Conrad showed strong themes of modernism in the decades approaching the turn of the twentieth century). Modernist texts have often considered such issues as the shifting social realities as a result of the industrial revolution, the rise of scientific and technological advancement, post-war traumas, the decline of religion, and the “death” of god. These literatures also experiment in their approach to form, departing from the narrative structure of the Romantic and Victorian eras. Many of the stories within this category were written at the height of modernism as a literary period, while some contemporary selections, Alice Munro’s stories for example, invoke modernist tropes into contemporary frameworks.

  • Joseph Conrad “An Outpost of Progress”
  • James Joyce “An Encounter” “The Dead”
  • Franz Kafka “Before the Law”
  • Bruno Schulz “Sanatorium Under the Sign of the Hourglass”
  • F.Scott Fitzgerald “Babylon Revisited”
  • William Faulkner “Pantaloon in Black”
  • Jorge Luis Borges “The Library of Babel”
  • Ernest Hemingway “A Clean Well-Lighted Place”
  • Samuel Beckett “Imagination Dead Imagine”
  • Albert Camus “The Guest”
  • Alice Munro “Fits” “Open Secrets”
  • John Berger “Islington”
  • Lydia Davis “The Bone” “A Few Thing Wrong With Me”

Canadian Modernist Literature

The following stories reflect the aesthetics and thematic concerns of modernist literature at large through the distinct—and at times diverging—framework of Canadian modernist literature, a unique chapter of the modernist movement.

  • Sinclair Ross “The Painted Door”
  • Sheila Watson “Antigone”
  • Alice Munro “Fits” “Open Secrets”
  • Mavis Gallant “In Youth Is Pleasure” “Voices Lost in Snow”
  • Mordecai Richler “Benny, the War in Europe, and Myerson’s Daughter Bella”
  • Barbara Gowdy “We So Seldom Look On Love”


These stories in many ways illustrate the postmodern response to the decline of the modernist literary era. Some scholars have proposed that postmodernism was a reaction to the disappointing decline of modernism. Some rather argue that postmodern aesthetics developed with the postcolonial social structures, politics, and economics of contemporary life. As such, postmodernism employs its own set of aesthetics, narrative structures and topics. Such strong thematic threads of the postmodern include trauma, memory, and diaspora.

  • Josef Skvorecky “panta rei”
  • William Trevor “The Piano Tuner’s Wives”
  • Chinua Achebe “Civil Peace”
  • Toni Morrison “Recitatif”
  • Alice Munro “Fits”, “Open Secrets”
  • Elena Poniatowska “The Night Visitor”
  • Austin Clarke “Leaving This Island Place”
  • Leon Rooke “The Bolt of the White Cloth”
  • Woody Allen “The Kugelmass Episode”
  • Anita Desai “Surface Textures”
  • Robert Stone “Miserere”
  • Margaret Atwood “Death By Landscape”
  • Marie-Claire Blais “The Foresaken”
  • Angela Carter “The Company of Wolves”
  • Maxine Hong Kingston “On Morality”
  • Emma Lee Warrior “Compatriots”
  • Sandra Birdsell “The Wednesday Circle”
  • Thomas King “The One About Coyote Going West”
  • Richard Ford “Rock Springs”
  • Keath Fraser “Roget’s Thesaurus”
  • Tobias Wolff “Casualty”
  • Jane Urquhart “The Death of Robert Browning”
  • Barbara Gowdy “We So Seldom Look On Love”
  • Elizabeth Hay “The Friend”
  • Dionne Brand “Photograph”
  • Louise Erdrich “Fleur”
  • Lorrie Moore “Agnes of Iowa”
  • Ben Okri “Laughter Beneath the Bridge”
  • Anne Enright “Yesterday’s Weather”
  • Sherman Alexie “This Is What It Means To Say Phoenix, Arizona”
  • Edwidge Danticat “Between the Pool and the Gardenias”

The Contemporary Canadian Short Story

Through the distinct lens of these masterful Canadian writers, the following stories either (1) build on the Canadian modernist tradition, (2) encapsulate the aesthetics of the postmodern, or (3) depart from postmodernity in an exploratory space of contemporary literature sometimes called “post-postmodern,” “hypermodern,” or “off modern.” N.B. Canadian modernist literature in many ways presents as a slight mutation of literary modernism at large. As such, some writers such as Mordecai Richler and Mavis Gallant are included in both the Canadian modernist short story categorization and the contemporary Canadian short story categorization.

  • Mordecai Richler “Benny, the War in Europe, and Myerson’s Daughter Bella”
  • Alice Munro “Fits” “Open Secrets”
  • Austin Clarke “Leaving This Island Place”
  • Dionne Brand “Photograph”
  • Alistair Macleod “As Birds Bring Forth the Sun”
  • Margaret Atwood “Death by Landscape”
  • Leon Rooke “The Bolt of the White Cloth”
  • Jack Hodgins “Separating”
  • Marie-Claire Blais “The Forsaken”
  • Jane Urquhart “The Death of Robert Browning”
  • Barbara Gowdy “We So Seldom Look On Love
  • Elizabeth Hay “The Friend”
  • Dionne Brand “Photograph”

Contemporary Short Fiction at Large

These stories urge readers to consider the defining components of a new contemporary literary period following postmodernity. As such, the stories tackle conventional approaches to form and narrative point-of-view, while either diverging from or strongly building on the postmodern aesthetic.

  • Don DeLillo “Baader-Meinhof”
  • Lydia Davis “The Bone”, “A Few Things Wrong With Me”
  • George Saunders “Victory Lap”
  • Sarah Hall “She Murdered Mortal He”
  • Karen Russell “Vampires in the Lemon Grove”
  • John Berger “Islington”