Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG488H1S  L0101   R10-12
Early 20th-Century American Short Fiction in Magazines
Instructor: Talia Regan 

Brief Description of Course: Many well-known American short stories first appeared within the pages of magazines, where they were surrounded by a wealth of textual and paratextual material such as advertisements, editorials, illustrations/cartoons, letters to the editors, poetry and other fiction. When we study American short fiction now, however, we almost exclusively read from anthologies of American literature, which represent an entirely different publication context. In this seminar, we will purposefully move away from the anthology to explore the original publication contexts of frequently anthologized short stories in order to raise important questions about American short fiction, the literary marketplace, and the effects of publication context on interpretation. What happens to a story when we read it in a magazine? How does this context shift our engagement with the text? What relationship is produced between literature and advertisements or other surrounding material? How are our assumptions about class, genre, and the hierarchy of cultural tastes influenced/challenged/confirmed by reading a story as it was originally published? While recent critical works in American book history and print culture will help frame the course, this seminar will rely on students’ archival research to engage with these questions and prompt many others.

Required Reading:
Representative Primary Texts and Contexts: Willa Cather’s “Paul’s Case” in McClure’s magazine (1905); Sui Sin Far’s “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” in Hampton’s magazine (May 1910); Jessie Fauset’s “There Was One Time” in The Crisis (April/May 1917); Jean Toomer’s “Fern” in The Little Review (Autumn 1922); Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” in transition (1927); F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited” in The Saturday Evening Post (Feb. 21 1931); Langston Hughes’ “A Good Job Gone” in Esquire (April 1934); William Faulkner’s “The Bear” in The Saturday Evening Post (May 9 1942); Dorothy Parker’s “The Lovely Leave” in Woman’s Home Companion (Dec. 1943); Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” in the New Yorker (June 26 1948); Flannery O’Connor’s “The Train” in the Sewanee Review (April 1948)

Representative Secondary Texts: Robert Darnton “What is the History of Books”; Leah Price “Cultures of the Commonplace”; Richard Ohmann “Diverging Paths: Books and Magazines in the Transition to Corporate Capitalism”; James L. W. West III “The Magazine Market”; Carol Polsgrove “Magazines and the Making of Authors”

First Three Authors/Texts: Willa Cather, “Paul’s Case” in McClures (May 1905); Robert Darnton “What is the History of Books”; Sui Sin Far’s “Mrs. Spring Fragrance” in Hampton’s (May 1910)

Method of Instruction: Seminar.

Method of Evaluation: Attendance and participation (20%), weekly archival “finds” (15%), conference presentation 20 minutes (25%), final research paper 15 pages (40%).

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