Tag Archives: short stories

Narrative is Good for You

That’s the thesis of classicist, philosopher, and legal scholar Martha Nussbaum (b. 1947) in her essay, “The Narrative Imagination” (1997). How is it good for you? On Nussbaum’s account, it expands and trains your noticing, theorizing, and moral capacities. Here’s a … Continue reading

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Richard Dawkins and Memes

For being an early and vigorous defender of the theory of evolution by natural selection against its critics, 19th century biologist Julian Huxley became known as “Darwin’s bulldog.” In the late 20th and early 21st century, the sinewy and quick-witted … Continue reading

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Negotiation of the Detour: The Pervert’s Guide to the Origin of Rhetoric

Accompanied by a black and white dog, a huntress, not young, steps from a blue grove into the dawn light. It’s spring; we are outside of Athens in 508 BC. Pericles will not be born for another 13 years. The … Continue reading

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Using Aristotle’s Four Causes to Analyze Literature

When Aristotle looked at, say, a tree and asked what caused it, his answer began with matter and form: a tree is a product of the raw matter it is made of (water and wood fibers) channeled through a very particular form … Continue reading

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Close Literary Reading 101: Thinking about How Stories End

I thought it might be fun (at least for me) to lay out, in a series of short blog posts, some of the basic terms and ideas that I present to my students when talking about the “close reading” of literary texts. … Continue reading

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Henry James’ “The Last of the Valerii”: Breaking the Spell of Religion?

Henry James has an intriguing, but not widely known, tale of a person coming under the spell of a religious mania. James titled it: The Last of the Valerii The short story is set in Rome, and the narrator is the godfather of an … Continue reading

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Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour” in Real-Time! A Brazilian Man Walks in on His Own Funeral!

For the story’s brevity, emotional accessibility, and ironic shock value, it seems customary nowadays for English instructors to start introductory literature courses with Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour.” Chopin’s story is about a man who has died in an accident—or at least … Continue reading

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Close Literary Reading 101: Some Terms and Ideas for Thinking about Dramatic Structure

I thought it might be fun (at least for me) to lay out, in a series of short blog posts, some of the basic terms and ideas that I present to my students when talking about the “close reading” of literary texts. … Continue reading

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Score One for the Close Reading of Literature! Psychologists Say that Reading Kafka-like Defamiliarizing Literature is Good for Your Brain!

Literature intructors and creative writers of the world, unite and take heart! We’re not useless afterall! Psychologists at the University of California at Santa Barbara report in a recent academic journal article that they gave a group of students Franz Kafka’s defamiliarizing … Continue reading

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Close Literary Reading 101: Noticing Narration

I thought it might be fun (at least for me) to lay out, in a series of short blog posts, some of the basic terms and ideas that I present to my students when talking about the “close reading” of literary texts. … Continue reading

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John Updike’s Final Collection of Short Stories, “My Father’s Tears”, Has Just Been Published

Stefan Beck, who blogs at The New Criterion website, likes John Updike’s final collection of short stories (which just came out). Money quote: The posthumous collection My Father’s Tears reminds us of one wonderful thing about Updike: Practically any example … Continue reading

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“The problems of the human heart in conflict with itself, which alone can make good writing”: Audio of William Faulkner’s Nobel Prize Speech

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“In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits”: See Here John Updike, in a 1995 Interview, Discussing His Short Story, “A & P”

Part one: Part two:

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Existential Absurdity in Stephen Crane’s “The Open Boat” (1897)

Is the universe a chaos or a cosmos? Today’s quote comes from Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat” (1897). Stranded in a small life boat and caught in huge ocean swells—yet tantalizingly close to shore—four men contemplate their absurd … Continue reading

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Quote of the Day

James Baldwin, in his short story, “Sonny’s Blues” (1957): [W]hile the tale of how we suffer, and how we are delighted, and how we may triumph is never new, it always must be heard. There isn’t any other tale to … Continue reading

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Without a Doubt?: Honore de Balzac’s “A Passion in the Desert” and The Value of Close Reading

In Honore de Balzac’s short story, “A Passion in the Desert” (1830), is a vivid—and unsettling—description of an old, one-legged Napoleonic soldier: “He was without a doubt one of those troopers who are surprised at nothing, who find matter for laughter in … Continue reading

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Corot Painting (1867)—And a Bit of Fanciful Writing to Accompany It

The river, undisturbed by human voice or body, and untouched by empty boat or bird, quietly, and ever so slightly, tugged at the cold sheet of the sky, and all that reflected upon it, as if the river wanted to pull heaven and earth itself on a … Continue reading

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Responsibility, Participation, and Complicity: The Marquis de Sade’s Clodomir, Herman Melville’s Turkey, and George Bush’s Lindy England

In the Maquis de Sade’s short story, “The Lady of the Manor of Longeville, or a Lady’s Revenge,” there is a particularly unsettling scene in which the aristocratic Lord of the manor, upon discovering that his 26 year-old wife is having an … Continue reading

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“Young Goodman Brown” at McCain-Palin Rallies: Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Famous 1835 Short Story and the “Obama is a Terrorist” Hysteria Today

If you haven’t noticed, a certain subsection of the McCain-Palin “base” is hysterically convinced that Barack Obama is not what he appears to be. He may come across in public as a calm, intelligent man with a nice and low-key patriotic demeanor, … Continue reading

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Innocence to Experience: A Micro-Story That Could Be Turned into a Triptych, by Santi Tafarella

  Beneath a dormant tree, in brown, eggshell crisp leaves, a child found a white branch with a red blossom. The branch bent in the middle, and the child, to hold it together, presented it to her mother with both … Continue reading

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