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ENG 304: American Short Story

Course Description

This course is an intensive study of the American short story. The reading ranges from works by Washington Irving, Hawthorne, and Poe to contemporary writers like E. Annie Proulx, Edwidge Danticat, Mary Gaitskill, and Tim O’Brien. Many other major American authors will also be studied, including Twain, Chopin, Cather, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Baldwin, Carver. The course will consider a variety of cultures and viewpoints but will stress the uniquely American nature of the readings. Criticism and commentary by some of the authors will also be considered.


  • ENG 101: English Composition 1
  • ENG 102: English Composition 2

Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs)

Students who successfully complete this course will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the basic elements of American short fiction, including plot, character, theme, symbolism, irony, and setting
  2. Write about literature in a meaningful, thoughtful way, carefully examining the intent of the authors as well as the interpretations made by readers
  3. Articulate a vision of American life as seen through the eyes of the authors studied in the course
  4. Demonstrate an understanding of traditions and themes in American literature
  5. Demonstrate a basic understanding of literary criticism
  6. Explain how the arts, and short fiction in particular, helped to shape American society

General Education Outcomes (GEOs)

Please check the applicable GEOs for this course, if any, by outcomes at GEO Discipline Search.

Course Activities and Grading



Essay #1


Essay #2


Participation in Weekly Discussion Boards


Comprehensive Final Exam




Required Textbooks

Available through Charter Oak’s online bookstore

  • Charters, Ann. Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. 9th ed. Bedford Books, 2015. ISBN-10: 1457664615 or ISBN-13: 9781457664618

Course Schedule



Readings and Exercises




Module 1: Precursors of the American Short Story & The Early Nineteenth Century: 1819 - 1860

  • Readings:
    • Washington Irving, "Rip Van Winkle”
    • Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown”
    • Edgar Allen Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”
    • Lydia Maria Child, "Slavery’s Pleasant Homes (Not in textbook, available online.)
    • Herman Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener"
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions



Module 2: The Late Nineteenth Century: 1861 - 1899

  • Readings:
    • Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens), "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”
    • Mark Twain, Private History of the “Jumping Frog” Story
    • Bret Harte, "The Luck of Roaring Camp" (Not in textbook, available online.)
    • Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
    • Sarah Orne Jewett, "A White Heron”
    • Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper”
    • Gilman Casebook
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions



Module 2: The Late Nineteenth Century: 1861 - 1899 (cont.)

  • Readings:
    • Willa Cather, “Neighbour Rosicky”  (Not in textbook, available online.)
    • Kate Chopin, “Desiree’s Baby.” “The Story of an Hour”
    • Charles W. Chesnutt, "The Wife of His Youth” (Not in textbook, available online.)
    • Stephen Crane, "The Bride Comes to Yellow Sky” (Not in textbook, available online.)
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions
  • Essay #1 Due



Module 3: The Early Twentieth Century: 1900 - 1940

  • Readings:
    • Edith Wharton, "The Other Two," (Not in textbook, available online.)
    • Sherwood Anderson, "Hands”
    • Zora Neale Hurston, “The Gilded Six-Bits,” “How It Feels to Be Colored Me,"; “What White Publishers Won’t Print”
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions



Module 3: The Early Twentieth Century: 1900 - 1940 (cont.)

  • Readings:
    • William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily,” “The Meaning of ‘A Rose for Emily,"
    • John Steinbeck “The Chrysanthemums”
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald, "Winter Dreams"
    • Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants”
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions



Module 4: Mid-Twentieth Century

  • Readings:
    • Shirley Jackson, "The Lottery," "The Morning of June 28, 1948, and ‘The Lottery’"
    • Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find”
    • James Baldwin, "Sonny’s Blues
    • Philip Roth, "The Conversion of the Jews"
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions
  • Essay #2 Due



Module 5: Mid-Twentieth Century (cont.)

  • Readings:
    • John Updike, “A & P”
    • Kurt Vonnegut, "Harrison Bergeron"
    • Tillie Olsen, "I Stand Here Ironing"
    • Richard Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost A Man"
    • John Cheever, "The Swimmer”
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions



Module 5: Late Twentieth Century: 1966 - Present

  • Readings:
    • Ursula K. Le Guin “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas”
    • Toni Cade Bambera “The Lesson”
    • Alice Walker, "Everyday Use”
    • Tim O’Brien, "The Things They Carried"
    • Amy Tan, “Two Kinds”
    • Jhumpa Lahiri, “Interpreter of Maladies”
  • Read assigned material
  • Participate in Discussions
  • Final Exam Due
Final Exam
SLOs 1-6

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Students are responsible for knowing all Charter Oak State College (COSC) institutional policies, course-specific policies, procedures, and available academic support services and resources. Please see COSC Policies for COSC institutional policies and the “Course Policies” link for specific policies related to this course. COSC Resources information regarding available COSC academic support services and resources.