Lecture on Short Story Essay

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The short story
Narrative genres, such as the novel or the short story, are born out of the very powerful human need to tell stories, out of our fundamental desire to give shape to experience in order to understand it and share it with the community. Through story telling early communities made sense of natural phenomena, unexpected events, and personal experience. Storytelling enabled them to pass on valuable information and to keep the memory of their ancestors alive down the generations. Storytelling satisfies our need to understand and control our origins and destiny; it enables us to meaningfully shape our individual and communal experiences (to extract meaning from experiences that can appear senseless, bewildering or even
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We understand that it has to end, but as with life, we wish it to go on indefinitely. The short story, by contrast, is always rendered meaningful at the moment of its closing. The ending can be ambiguous or devastatingly clear but a good short story takes us step by step to its inexorable ending and its very beginning is but a seed of its ending. The great Argentinean short story writer Julio Cortázar explained this difference between the short story and the novel using a boxing analogy: “in a boxing match, the novel would win by points; the short story, by knock out.” A great short story writer is like the boxer who knows that every step and punch on the ring will lower his opponent’s defences (the reader’s resistance) until the knock out punch unexpectedly arrives to floor them. This is the revelation that the short story brings when it closes.

Edgar Allan Poe, whom I already mentioned as one of the first practitioners of the genre in English literature, was also its first theorist. In A Philosophy of Composition and a review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s collection Twice-told Tales, he felt the need to vindicate the technical superiority of the short story writer over that of the novelist presenting the short story as a finely calibrated artifice whose every part must work in unison towards achieving what he called unity or singleness of effect. This idea of perfect calibration is clear

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