Masterpieces of Short Fiction

Course No. 2317
Professor Michael Krasny, Ph.D.
San Francisco State University
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Course No. 2317
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Course Overview

Imagine that, in one sitting, you could enter a world of imagination and witness the triumphs, tragedies, errors, and epiphanies that arise in the lives of ordinary and extraordinary people. Imagine that, in the time it takes to run an errand, you could gain remarkable insights about the true nature of humanity—its dark secrets and its saving graces. Imagine that, in the space of an hour, you could do this instead:

  • Visit a Harlem jazz club and hear the inspired improvisations of gifted bluesmen
  • Attend a glittering Parisian ball bedecked in borrowed jewels
  • Confront a dangerous criminal on a lonely backwoods road
  • Journey back to colonial America and encounter a coven of witches

This enlightening experience awaits you in Masterpieces of Short Fiction, a 24-lecture course that samples two centuries' worth of great short stories written by some of the acknowledged masters of the genre, including Anton Chekhov, D. H. Lawrence, Flannery O'Connor, Franz Kafka, and Ernest Hemingway.

Dr. Michael Krasny, Professor of English at San Francisco State University and the host of KQED's award-winning news and public affairs radio program, Forum, guides you deep into 23 renowned works, illuminating the remarkable variety, breathtaking artistry, and profound themes to be found in these miniature masterpieces.

The Art of the Present Moment

Although short stories have been around throughout history in the form of myths, fables, and legends, the short story as a distinct art form arose only during the 19th century, just in time for the busy age we all live in.

More than simply a shorter version of the novel, the short story is a unique and rewarding literary form in itself. Great short fiction offers something you can find nowhere else: a world in miniature faithfully captured by the author's mastery of character, plot, setting, image, and theme. The time it takes to read a short story may be brief, but its impact lasts much longer.

"Short story writers see by the light of the flash," says author and Nobel Laureate Nadine Gordimer. "Theirs is the art of the only thing that one can be sure of—the present moment."

Encounter the Ordinary and the Extraordinary

As Masterpieces of Short Fiction demonstrates, however, that flash can reveal many different kinds of truths. For example, in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado," an embittered nobleman entombs his rival in a dank crypt, while in Grace Paley's "An Interest in Life," a deserted housewife maintains her good humor and hope while trying to raise her children.

Throughout the course, you encounter both of these extremes—the extraordinary and the ordinary moments of life—while you examine the craft of short fiction.

On one end of the spectrum, you see how great authors use the short story to capture the experience of the common man and woman. From Gogol's 19th-century underdog, the Russian scribe Akaky in "The Overcoat," to Raymond Carver's sympathetic portrait of a "plain man" in "Cathedral," short story writers use their remarkable powers of observation to record and often celebrate the unsung lives of ordinary people.

But you also sample the exotic and unusual as well, whether in Franz Kafka's satirical tale of an artist who turns starvation into a work of performance art ("A Hunger Artist") or in Gabriel García Márquez's Magical Realist allegory about a winged man who falls to Earth in a Latin American village ("A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings").

Each story, whether drawn from the closely observed details of everyday life or a richly imagined land of fantasy, offers you an exquisite and unique portrait of humanity.

How to Recognize a Masterpiece

How can stories that are so brief have such a strong emotional impact? What makes each of the works in this course a masterpiece? In Masterpieces of Short Fiction, you not only enjoy great literature, but you also develop an appreciation for how these great authors elevate the craft of storytelling into an art form.

In each lecture, Professor Krasny, who holds an Award of Excellence from the National Association of Humanities Educators, focuses on a single story written by a master of the genre. Using examples from the stories themselves, he illuminates each author's virtuosic development of character, plot, setting, imagery, theme, and language. As you progress through the course, you hone your ability to recognize and assess these elements.

You also learn fascinating facts about the author's lives and the artistic and historical contexts that helped shape these great works:

  • "Young Goodman Brown" reflects Nathaniel Hawthorne's stern Puritan upbringing and his guilt about his ancestors' participation in the Salem witch trials.
  • Like the main character of "My First Goose," Isaac Babel was a Jew who nevertheless rode with the notoriously anti-Semitic Cossacks as they undertook violent pogroms in Jewish neighborhoods and villages.
  • The terse literary style in Ernest Hemingway's "The Killers" (later dubbed "cablese" because it imitated the conciseness of telegram writing) was developed during the writer's early stint as a war correspondent.
  • Shirley Jackson's depiction of the village in "The Lottery" reflects her own feeling of isolation living as a progressive intellectual in a close-minded New England town.
  • Traces of James Baldwin's evangelical background remain in the poetic and biblical language of stories like "Sonny's Blues."

Discover the "Literary Form of Our Age"

Since 1970, Professor Krasny has taught courses on a wealth of subjects, including the short story, modern and contemporary American literature, ethnic American literature, transatlantic modern drama, and literary theory. Drawing on his considerable scholarly background, he provides you with an "insider's view" of the craft of short fiction that is as rare as it is valuable.

Join him on this survey of short fiction's hallmark works from its origins in the 19th century to its confrontation with the issues of the late 20th century and discover why this specific genre, in the words of Nadine Gordimer, is the "literary form of our age."

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24 lectures
 |  Average 30 minutes each
  • 1
    Excavations—Poe's "The Cask of Amontillado"
    What is a short story? How do we judge the strengths and weakness of short fiction? Using Edgar Allen Poe's masterpiece of suspense and psychological horror, you enter the world of the short story and examine the techniques used by writers in this powerful genre. x
  • 2
    Hawthorne's "Goodman Brown" and Lost Faith
    Colonial puritanism serves as the backdrop for Nathaniel Hawthorne's tale of a young man who glimpses the evil in the human heart. You explore how Hawthorne weaves together the strands of Calvinism, paganism, and Indian lore in this surreal allegory. x
  • 3
    Under Gogol's "Overcoat"
    The next stop is tsarist Russia, where you encounter one of the most influential pieces of 19th-century short fiction. In this darkly satiric yet sympathetic story, Gogol' creates the ultimate "low man," Akaky, the predecessor of a generation of literary underdogs. x
  • 4
    Maupassant's "The Necklace"—Real and Paste
    This lecture continues to focus on "little people" with Maupassant's classic tale of bourgeois longing and ironic reversals. In considering the story's famous surprise ending, you examine what the author had to say about morality, materialism, and the unpredictability of fate. x
  • 5
    Chekhov, Love, and "The Lady with the Dog"
    According to novelist Vladimir Nabokov, "All the traditional rules of storytelling have been broken in this wonderful story." In this lecture, Professor Krasny delineates how Chekhov's unorthodox but deft treatment of character, plot, and setting result in a masterpiece of short fiction. x
  • 6
    James in the Art Studio—"The Real Thing"
    The work of Henry James is the epitome of 19th-century Realism. Using as his source an anecdote about an aristocratic couple and an artist, James creates a unique piece of short fiction that questions the distinction between appearance and reality and raises profound questions about the social order of his day. x
  • 7
    Epiphany and the Modern in Joyce's "Araby"
    This lecture enters the 20th century, moving to Dublin and the work of one of the greatest Modernists, James Joyce. In this story from his famous collection of short fiction, Dubliners, Joyce offers a view of a boy's epiphany about life's disappointments expressed through the story of a failed quest. x
  • 8
    Babel's "My First Goose"—Violent Concision
    This lecture takes you back to Russia and to a remarkable initiation tale set against the backdrop of the Bolshevik Revolution. Through Babel's shocking and unsettling tale, you are introduced to a singularly important theme that will recur throughout 20th-century fiction: violence. x
  • 9
    Male Initiation—Hemingway's "The Killers"
    A similar initiation into the world of violence appears in Hemingway's dark story of a young man's encounter with two hit men. The story provides an opportunity to examine the author's mastery of language and to contemplate his enormous influence on later writers. x
  • 10
    Kafka's Parable—"A Hunger Artist"
    In this satirically humorous allegory of the proverbial "starving artist," Kafka presents a grim but funny vision of the faddishness of public tastes and explores Modernists' ideas about Existentialism and the relationship of art and commerce. x
  • 11
    Lawrence's Blue-eyed "Rocking-Horse Winner"
    A young boy's uncanny abilities have dire consequences for him and his family in this dark fairy tale about materialism and familial relations. This lecture explores the story's many meanings, including its resonance with Lawrence's own complicated relationships with his mother and his wife. x
  • 12
    Female Initiation—Mansfield's "Party"
    Class conflict and psychological complexity take center stage in this great Chekhov-influenced story, which traces the initiation of a young girl from pampered naiveté into the understanding of the relationship between life and death. x
  • 13
    Jackson's Shocking Vision in "The Lottery"
    The mid-century focus begins with "The Lottery," a tale that shocked the post–World War II generation. You consider how the story's revelation of a deadly and inhuman ritual reflects a new awareness of the horrors of war and human aggression. x
  • 14
    O'Connor's "A Good Man Is Hard to Find"
    This lecture turns to the great Southern American writer Flannery O'Connor, whose harrowing story of a family murdered by a serial killer presents a paradoxical vision of grace. x
  • 15
    Paley on Survival and "An Interest in Life"
    With Grace Paley, you encounter one of the first authors to reflect a feminist perspective. Paley creates the memorable character Virginia, an abandoned wife and mother who, despite her suffering, maintains a kind of faith in life and other human beings. x
  • 16
    The "Enormous Wings" of García Márquez
    Myth and satire blend in this powerful allegory about a winged man who falls from the sky and upsets life in a small South American village. You consider the literary movement of Magical Realism and explore why this story has such a powerful impact on readers. x
  • 17
    A New World Fable—Malamud's "The Jewbird"
    Malamud's story about a fantastical Jewish black bird named Schwartz offers another version of Magical Realism, one that reflects growing anxieties about the assimilation of Eastern European Jews in the United States during the 20th century. x
  • 18
    Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues"—A Harlem Song
    This lecture considers the great Baldwin story "Sonny's Blues," with its themes of music, drug addiction, suffering, family relationships, and the blues, and examines how the story explores the conflicts implicit in the experience of black Americans. x
  • 19
    Updike's "A & P"—The Choice of Gallantry
    Considered one of John Updike's best short stories, "A & P" is a realistic, bittersweet tale of awakening and the pain of adolescence. You consider how the story reflects both its time (the Sixties) and its place (New England) and appreciate the authentic voice of Updike's narrator, the teenager Sammy. x
  • 20
    Kingston's Warrior Myth—"No Name Woman"
    In this story of family secrets, Kingston uses autobiographical details to create an exploration of the meaning of identity. The result is a groundbreaking work that combines strands from ethnic, cross-cultural, and feminist writing. x
  • 21
    Atwood's "Happy Endings" as Metafiction
    Atwood takes the conventions of fiction as her subject in this Postmodernist and satiric explication of what makes a "happy ending." You consider how readers contribute to the meaning of fiction and test how Atwood's story reflects Hemingway's idea that all stories end in death. x
  • 22
    Gordimer's "Moment Before" Apartheid Fell
    This lecture begins with a discussion of the role of apartheid in South Africa and examines how Gordimer, a long-time antiapartheid activist, creates a story that sheds a compassionate light on both the victims of this oppressive political order and its supporters. x
  • 23
    Carver's "Cathedral"—A Story that Levitates
    Art, transcendence, intimacy, and consciousness-expanding substances all play a role in this subtle and beautifully rendered account of a working stiff, his wife, her blind friend, and the evening they share. x
  • 24
    Why Short Fiction Masterpieces?
    Is short fiction really needed? What does this format offer that cannot be achieved in other literary forms? In this summary, you meditate on the value of the short story and take a long view of its development. x

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  • 152-page printed course guidebook
  • Suggested readings
  • Questions to consider
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Your professor

Michael Krasny

About Your Professor

Michael Krasny, Ph.D.
San Francisco State University
Dr. Michael Krasny is Professor of English at San Francisco State University. He earned his M.A. from Ohio University, where he is a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin. Professor Krasny has published a variety of fiction, literary criticism, and political commentary. He is the coauthor of Sound Ideas (McGraw-Hill) and author of Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary...
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Masterpieces of Short Fiction is rated 3.6 out of 5 by 45.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Brilliant, insightful and funny A great survey of the Short Story from the whole world
Date published: 2017-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another Winner I am A fan of most Great Courses especailly literature,music and philosophy. this lecture series opened my thought s to a different genre, the short story, and the instructor was 100% on track to appeal to my enthusisam. I will assuredly get access to these authors and their works to continue my enjoyment.
Date published: 2017-04-30
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Short Stories I just started viewing it, but it is very good so far.
Date published: 2017-04-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love this course! I bought the CD version of this course for my boyfriend to listen to while driving. I started streaming it first so that I could hear what I was giving him. I am hooked! It is awakening in me a long lost love of literature and writing. Learning about the background of the authors adds so much to my appreciation of the stories and leads me to want to read more of the stories of some. I bought the Charters anthology that was recommended, and it has most of the stories. (I got a used version on Amazon for about $5, including shipping.) I am now reading some of the other stories in the anthology, and enjoying them also. To tell the whole story, I first ordered the anthology for my boyfriend. But now I am ordering another copy, so that I can keep one. I am looking forward to hearing the course again on CDs when my boyfriend and I go on a road trip. I am waiting for then before I give them to him. I look forward to watching him enjoy it. As for those who were not pleased with the course, I can only say you can't be all things to all people. In my opinion, the course does deliver what it promises. This is indeed a gift that keeps on giving, to the giver as well as the recipient. I only wish Dr. Krasny would teach a sequel course, with more stories.
Date published: 2016-11-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course A very enjoyable course. The professor's presentation was entertaining and clear. His survey of short fiction was well planned and comprehensive. I especially liked the way he tied the featured author in with the history of short fiction. I would purchase more courses by this professor.
Date published: 2015-01-20
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Intro to some great works Michael Krasny has a great voice and I have always loved listening to him on NPR. I know that might be a strange reason to purchase a course, but when you drive miles and miles every day, it can be a blessing. Like many of his listeners, I just love to read. His "overview" and recommendations have introduced me to new works and authors I now enjoy. It was a fun course!
Date published: 2014-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Worth more than one Listening I'm not sure why some of the reviews of Dr. Krasney have been so harsh. He has a "conversational" tone, but it is pleasent. I purchased this course years ago and just listened to it for the third time. It was still fresh and I picked up some new insights. I think it compares well even to other excellent teaching company courses. The presentation is good and short story selection is beyond reproach. I am happy with this purchase.
Date published: 2013-05-06
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Good Critic is Harder to Find Since I teach A Good Man, a story I love, I jumped to that one and was greatly disappointed by this professor's shallow, indeed off course, interpretation. Pigeon-holing Ms. O'Connor as a "Catholic" writer has always been a problem. Perhaps he bought into this ridiculous notion and tried to sniff out "Catholicisms". Even my students knew that the grandmother touches the misfit because she is desperately trying to save herself. She is hardly the blessing type. She even tells the psychopath he is a "good man". The point is that she, like all of us, can't find one because she isn't good enough herself to recognize one. We need to start with ourselves (hardly a notion limited to Catholics). There is irony in the title. This "scholar" needs to re-read the story and stop underestimating the writer's garvitas. She transcends her religion as all great artists do. He really missed all of the story's beauty.
Date published: 2013-03-30
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Do not waste money Well, i have been buying and listening to a lot of literary courses from teaching company because i want to start writing my own stories... Not sure why almost All professors feel like customers are looking for some history/biography of writers etc. If i want such an information, i can find it on web/elsewhere. Why don't they discuss the plot,character development,sub-text,nuances and dissect the story so we can engage in some creative thinking??? When will teaching company get truly in-depth college degree level courses on literature rather than creating useless bundles of 20best, 30 best, 20 world, 20 western/world etc. courses???? Also, what's this attachment with every lecture being 30 minutes rather than taking up as much time as content demands?
Date published: 2012-12-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Stimulating and Engaging Overall, I found this course wonderful and I came to enjoy and respect Professor Krasny immensely. However, I must admit that it was a tad difficult "getting into" the manner in which the professor approached the subject matter. Perhaps I was expecting a more linear approach. For example, an outline of the story, some discussion of the author and perhaps his/her background and motives for writing the piece, etc. (In retrospect, this might have been a boring approach, after all.) What Professor Krasny does, instead, is similar to swooping about and all around the story, the author, the times in which the author lived, his/her companions and experiences, and critics' (of their time and ours) reactions to the short piece under study. The result is a highly engaging, ongoing narrative thread about how stories are told, varying expectations of both readers and authors, and the growing sophistication and broadening of "the canon" of masterpiece short stories. While I had read few of the stories discussed in this course, I was familiar with about half the authors. One of the results of my taking this course was my ordering collected works of the short stories of several of the authors discussed by Professor Krasny and, for me, this is the highest praise possible. Further, as the course continued I found myself looking forward more each time to the next lecture, for the personality and engagement of the lecturer were growing on me. Clearly a brilliant man, the professor is also approachable, likable, and possesses a good sense of humor. Ultimately, these stories say much about the human condition, and much about the "little people" (like you and me) who, while not playing much of a role noted in history books, nonetheless, struggle with, and occasionally discover revelations which connect them to us in powerfully intimate ways. A highly meaningful course which I heartily recommend to all lovers of reading.
Date published: 2012-11-23
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Great fun! If you are expecting relevations that will earn you a PhD then this course may not be for you. If you want to read stories by some of the great masters of fiction and then, as Dr Krasny states in lecture 1, listen to a 'discussion' of those stories this is for you. The lectures first cover some background on the authors and then move on to present insights and analysis as well as exploring some of the subtle, hidden meanings in the stories. It's also great if time is a premium for you. The stories are short so I tend to read one before going to bed and then listen to the corresponding lecture on my drive to work in the morning. Then I read another on my lunch break and listen to that lecture on the drive home. All in all, a very entertaining course.
Date published: 2012-03-15
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Solid Introduction to the Short Story This 24 lecture 12 hour course covers 23 of the best short stories ever written. The selection of stories for this course is outstanding and includes many of the recognized greats of short fiction. Included here, among others, are 19th century writers Poe, Hawthorne, Gogol, Chekov, and James. Early 20th century writers include Joyce, Babel, Hemingway, and Kafka. The course concludes with discussion of works by more recent writers - Garcia Marquez, Baldwin, Gordimer, and Carver, among others. This is simply an outstanding collection of works and writers. It is absolutely imperative that one read the short story carefully (at least once, maybe twice) in addition to listening to the lectures of Professor Krasny. I found it best to read the story first, then listen to the course lecture, and then re-read the story while reviewing the lecture notes. Reading the work before listening to the lecture provides a better basis for understanding the lecture material. In addition, you may miss out on the fun of reading through to many of the surprise and ironic endings of these works (if you have not read them before) if you go to the lecture first. Professor Krasny does a nice job hitting some of the high points of each work in his 30 minute discussion. He gave me plenty to consider as went back for my re-reading of the story. One downside to the course is that I had to go to multiple sources to find the text of these works of short fiction. Some of the older stories can be downloaded free of charge to a Kindle. A number of the other stories can be found in either the 9th edition of Norton’s Introduction to Literature or the 7th edition of Charters’ The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction. A few may require locating other collections of stories to borrow or purchase. Inclusion of an accompanying volume with the text of the selected short stories would have been a great addition to the course. However, in truth, the search for the text of the stories in this course often led me to a rich storehouse of other material to put aside and read at a later date. I must admit that this was my first reading of several of the authors presented in this course - Babel, Mansfield, Paley, Baldwin, Gordimer, and Carver, to name a few. I am grateful for the introduction to these authors and plan to read more of them. There are many classic short stories that were not included in this course. It might be reasonable to consider a second course focusing on short fiction chosen among different works and authors.
Date published: 2012-03-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Disappointing I have taken two other literature courses from Great Courses which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, this "Short Fiction" course seemed to drag. It was the presentation that irritated me more than the content. Dr. Krasny although obviously knowledgeable about the the subject matter did not seem confortable in his presentation. He appeared to read each lecture which did not always go smoothly. He also repeated information several times in the same lecture. The selection of stories was varied and interesting. The information was there but hard to distill. I did not recommend this course because there are other literature courses here that are much more informative and enjoyable.
Date published: 2012-02-04
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Not insightful I have enjoyed several other Literature courses by the Teaching Company. This is by far the least educative. Although I liked the selection of short fiction chosen and enjoyed reading them, I found the lectures to be of a very inferior standard. The lecturer spent much of the time rereading excerpts and retelling the story with very little to add to my own reading experience. The lectures were very repetitive and general.
Date published: 2012-01-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from people forget to read short stories The short story form is so fascinating and it is a shame that most people today go for novels exclusively. Short stories are often little masterpieces, and the array of stories chosen for this course is delightful. Perhaps stories were pushed down our throats as kids in school, but the richness of this genre should not be ignored now. This is a nostalgic and an electric course that I hightly recommend for readers who enjoy fine fiction.
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A page turner! I loved this, and could hardly put it down until I had finished listening to all of the lectures. It is beautifully put together, almost like a piece of music. Dr. Krasny builds on each chapter, and refers to earlier learnings as he develops the later chapters. He delivers the juice that is in these short stories, and I found this exciting and illuminating. I plan to re-read each of these works of short fiction.
Date published: 2011-10-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not enough This course could easily accomodate 36 or 48 lectures instead of just 24. I ended up wanting more short stories to read and learn about. Where were Twain, Conrad, Harte, London, Saki, Fitzgerald, Borges, Crane, et al? To be clear, I loved most of the 23 stories I read for this course. (I think Poe's story was the only one I had read before.) But there were quite a few more stories that could have been discussed and I wish had been included. At the end of the study guide the professor provides a list of suggested additional short stories but I'm going to miss his analysis. Of the 23 stories I think all but about six were in the Charters anthology recommended by the professor. Of those six, most were available on the Internet and I had to go to the library to get the Paley and Gordimer stories. The professor is excellent. He knows the material cold and is a terrific lecturer. His last lecture on the value of the short story is a gem.
Date published: 2011-08-29
Rated 3 out of 5 by from OVERALL VIEW OF STANDARD LISTING OF SHORT FICTION This review refers to DVD's. Purchase of DVD's a waste of money since Dr Krasny stays fixed to the speaking stand and the visuals are primarily pictures of authors and copies of the text he is reading. Those interested in acquiring these lectures would be advised to stick to audio copies. Short fiction has enjoyed a great run in America and is still a vital piece of our literary experience. While we no longer have the vast selection of stories in wide circulation magazines, many of whom have ceased publication, short fiction is still alive and well. The New Yorker continues to publish it as a regular feature although many subscribers among my friends complain they no longer understand the point of many of the stories. Other periodicals, such as Commentary, occasionally throw in a piece of short fiction. However, the vast bulk of short fiction, I think, is now found in the material published in periodicals usually associated with universities. The Sewanee Review is considered one of the better examples. Reading through these issues will provide an exposure to all sorts of new, and old, approaches to short fiction. Libraries, even in academic locations, have an uneven record of subscribing to all of these publications. So, finding a copy one wants is a matter of luck unless one subscribes to it. This series of lectures provides coverage of a group of stories one may find in most anthologies, give or take a few. Dr Krasny gives a brief summary of the story and then provides considerable information on the author and the author's other works. In some cases, he describes the author's place in the literary picture of his times and what the story means within that context. This material is interesting, but one may wish to learn more about the literary technics of assembling the story and how the specific language fits together to achieve that goal. Perhaps listening to the other lecturers such as Dr Weil, for example, can spoil one. Nevertheless, this series of lectures can provide a solid introduction to short fiction, and warrants exploration by those who wish learn more about the genre as well as these particular authors.
Date published: 2011-07-29
Rated 1 out of 5 by from A Poor Effort I am a big fan of The Teaching Company and have always been impressed with the quality of the courses. This course, however, was a disappointment. Prof Krasny really has very little of interest to say about his subject. When discussing the stories on the syllabus, he often resorts to rather empty phrases--they are "mesmerizing" or "strangely intriguing" and then leaves it at that. This course would be fine, in fact valuable, for a high school freshman. It is not college level. Also, why does he spend a good 5 mins of each lecture reading aloud the story I've just finished reading myself? This may be a useful pedagogical technique for children, but I think most adults will find it wearying. TTC should protect its brand and either move this course to its High School curricula or drop it from the course listing entirely.
Date published: 2011-07-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very, very underrated I held off buying this course for a long time because of it's low review rating. (3.5 for a TTC ----OUCH! My mistake, this an excellent and worthwhile work. Dr. Krasny not only give a sold discussion of the stories, but also gives a good background on the writers, and their other major works. He also gives a good discussion on short fiction in general. Most of the critical reviews harp on Dr. Kransy. True he gets a little tongue tied sometimes and some of his lectures do wander and repeat, but overall this is a solid effort. I particularly liked the stories selected: THE LOTTERY, THE NECKLACE, A HUNGER ARTIST, etc. Strongly recommend.
Date published: 2010-03-10
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Second Try My past review must have gotten lost in cyberspace. Other reviews seem a little tough on the content and professor. I found the stories well worth reading and many points in the lectures enlightening. I do wish the professor had a little more self-awareness. In one lecture he compared the Holacaust to the America bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki--with seeming moral equivalence. Beyond the superficial these events are not morally equivalent. Maybe I'm wrong about his politics and those politics creeping into a literature course. If so I stand corrected.
Date published: 2010-02-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Thought provoking We thoroughly enjoyed this course. It inspired us to read all the stories plus delve into other literature that we were unaware of before. We didn't always agree with the Professor's 'take' on the stories, but that was part of the fun: agreeing, disagreeing, discussing, learning. It fully met our expectations for a high quality college course.
Date published: 2010-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Sorry it ended! I was surprised that a course that that did not include an actual reading of each short story, and then a discussion on the work, could be so good. Perhaps it may seem a bit odd to listen to an analysis of the work before reading it, but it works! In fact, it works very well. After the presentation, I have gone back and read many of the stories and found my enjoyment greatly enriched by Krasny's introduction and analysis. For example, Gordimer's "Moment Before The Gun Went Off" is a brilliant story and greatly enhanced by Krasny's lecture. The selected stories covered a wide range of authors, subjects, cultures and genres, and each was a gem. Krasny's delivery was pleasant and did not bore me. When the course was over, I felt I was at the end of a college semester and wanted to approach him and thank him for a most enjoyable experience.
Date published: 2009-10-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved It! I got the CD version, and loved this course. Hated it when it ended. I went out and got as many of the fiction pieces as I could find. I was able to find most in a couple of anthologies, like Norton, which was convenient. I read as much of each author as I could get my hands on as well as all critiques and biographies. I have already recommended this course to my son, a budding writer of fiction, and my son-in-law, a lawyer who reads voraciously for pleasure. Highly recommend this course.
Date published: 2009-10-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Life Changer This course was literally a life-changer for me since I've neglected short fiction most of my adult life in favor of the novel. But this course changed that and has resurrected an interest in short stories that I had as a child. Prof. Krasny provides a framework for evaluating and interpreting short fiction by considering the text, the author, the reader, and what he calls, "mimetic reality", or how the short story depicts what is reality. The choices are great: from Gogol and Poe and Chekov to O'Conner and Updike and Raymond Carver. Each story is examined for what it tells, the language employed, the plot, the pace, etc. What impressed me about the stories selected, which are indeed masterpieces, is their dream-like quality. Unlike the fragmentariness of dreams, however, short stories finish and typically finish with a punch - producing an "aha" or a "wow" or even a sublime feeling (eg, Carver's "Cathedral"). They can also motivate you think about life, death, the way the world is, and so on. The analysis by Krasny throughout the course is interesting and never dull. I may disagree with one or two of his interpretations, but that's an exception. For example, he talks about what may be below the surface of D.H. Lawrence's "Rocking Horse Winner" (eg, Oedipal complex, religion), but this seems to obscure the rich surface story where I believe the meaning is really found. The analyses of the stories by Hemingway, Babel, Carver, Chekov, etc., were thought-provoking and yielded insight into the authors' style and mission. Prof. Krasny makes it clear why each story is a masterpiece and what influence it author had on subsequent writers (who could miss the influence of Hemingway on Carver?). If a course awakens you to an activity that is as pleasurable and meaningful as short fiction and so that it becomes a part of your life, then the course has succeeded and the teacher can praised for his accomplishment. Prof. Krasny's course has done this for me and for that I thank him.
Date published: 2009-09-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Short stories They picked some good stories to talk about, and the speaker knew some of them pretty well. However, in quite a few, he repeated himself to a point of absurdity. This should have been edited much more carefully.
Date published: 2009-09-13
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Fun course as a survey of selected stories I enjoyed both the lectures and the lecturer. Although no course on short fiction can be at all comprehensive in only 24 lectures, I found Professor Krasny's choices both interesting and diverse. I was also pleased that he broadened his search to include stories by women authors, black authors, Jewish authors, as well as works of fiction both American and not. In terms of in-depth analysis -- What makes a particular short story a masterpiece? In what ways (other than length) does short fiction differ from longer forms of prose such as novels? -- the course is a little weak. As a study of the short story as a form of literature, I'd say the course passes, but is not exceptional. However, if you're just looking to sit back and listen to a survey of some remarkable stories that truly capture your attention and imagination, you'll have a good time listening to this course.
Date published: 2009-06-20
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Entertaining, but ... ... seemed somewhat light on analysis of what can really make 'compressed' fiction a transcendent, unforgettable experience. The lectures were 'easy listening,' a pleasurable review of some truly superb stories, yet I didn't get a full understanding or sense of the mechanisms and techniques that actually made these stories so great. However, I would still recommend the course.
Date published: 2009-05-30
Rated 3 out of 5 by from This course was acceptable, the short stories picked were good ones, but Prof. Krasny could have done much more with this series. I would have liked more depth in genre of short stories and how the tightening of a short story differs from a full length novel.
Date published: 2009-05-21
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Not Up To Standard The writer didn't cover anything in much depth, didn't really explain why these pieces were masterpieces, didn't help me understand what the authors set out to do, how they did it and how what they did qualified the works as superior fiction. In other words, writer didn't explain what I should look for in good fiction. When I read and listen to stuff by scholars like Rufus Fears -- I love his voice, delivery, and insight -- I really feel I'm learning something as he explores books that can change my life, for example. Part of it is due to the fact that his are ideas I hadn't thought about in the way he presents the material. I didn't get that feeling after reading and listening to Masterpieces of Short Fiction and some other works. Quite frankly, some other authors that are not part of this company have done better jobs in exploring and explaining many of the subjects offered by Teaching Company. In other words, something is missing in many of these courses. Perhaps they're cases of scholars talking to scholars -- or scholars talking to an audience they assume is well-versed -- instead of breaking down complex ideas and making their meaning accessible to ordinary consumers.
Date published: 2009-03-25
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