The American Short Story

Course Dates: 20/09/21 - 29/11/21
Time: 10:15 - 12:15
Location: Online
The short story is America’s outstanding literary form. The explosion of magazines in the 19th century led to a huge market in stories “to be taken down with a gulp.” Many of its greatest writers specialised in the form – including Edith Wharton, Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, Raymond Carver, John Cheever, William Faulkner and Lorrie Moore – and made it a vivid barometer of American life.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £199.00 Senior fee £199.00 Concession £121.00

This course has now finished

Course Code: HLT170

Finished Mon, day, 20 Sep - 29 Nov '21

Duration: 10 sessions (over 11 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course will offer the chance to read and discuss a wealth of powerful stories by American masters. Each week we’ll take two or three stories by a single author and study them in detail. We’ll discuss the evolution of the form, from traditional well-crafted narratives with a strong plot to enigmatic, often unsettling tales offering glimpses of revelation, to experimental modernism: “form, not plot” in the words of Sherwood Anderson.

This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.

What will we cover?

We’ll cover a range of subjects at the heart of the American experience: the lure – and fear – of the wilderness, the immigrant experience, racial tension, existential dread, family life, love and hate, humour and horror.
And we’ll meet a rich cast of characters – from soldiers, salesmen, and witches, to artists, lovers and suburban housewives.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

• Recognise recurring themes in American literature
• Relate these to the wider world of American culture
• Feel confident enough to explore further study of related fiction on your own.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is introductory. An enthusiasm for reading and discussion is all that is required.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

The course is an interactive mixture of tutor exposition, small group work and class discussion. Videos and clips will also be shown and discussed. You will asked to read the texts before the class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

Students should buy or borrow 'The New Penguin Book of American Short Stories' ed Kasia Boddy (Penguin, 2011).
Links to other texts will be provided by the tutor.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Literature courses under History, Culture and Writing at

Julian Birkett

Julian Birkett is a teacher and writer specialising in modern literature. He previously worked in the Arts department at the BBC as a producer of series such as The Late Show, Modern Poets in their Own Words, The Victorians and The Culture Show. He has taught in London and at the University of Mumbai.He aims to create a friendly but thoughtful atmosphere in his City Lit classes and to provide a stimulating variety of activities from tutor input to discussion to group work and video clips.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.