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Masterpieces of Short Fiction

Travel into a world of imagination and gain an appreciation of how great authors like Poe and Hemmingway elevated the craft of short fiction into an art form whose impact can last a lifetime.
Masterpieces of Short Fiction is rated 3.7 out of 5 by 51.
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Rated 3 out of 5 by from Why the mandatory 30-minute lectures? The professor has good selections and often provides helpful insights. But he rarely has enough fresh content in his lectures to fill 30 minutes. So there's lots of "filler" content that is repetitive and/or superficial. And he'll also fill time be unnecessarily telling parts of the story and/or reading passages. His lectures would be so much stronger if they were edited down and stop when it's time to stop. Sort of like a good short story!
Date published: 2023-10-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very informative course This is a very good course. He talks fast & sometimes I lost him; specially, if one is not totally focused, for example, when biking or in the gym. Also his analyses are above moderate level of difficulty. One needs some literary knowledge.
Date published: 2022-10-10
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Ultimately Disappointing The teacher does some things well. He's picked some important stories. He brings to bear important information about the works and their authors. And he presents the material in well-structured lessons. But I felt he was very deficient at what I was most hungry for. The great literature courses from TGC typically feature professors who are superb at literary analysis. They break down the literature itself to get to deeper layers of meaning, and they offer their own profound understandings. This professor is only so-so in this respect. He teaches what he believes is the lesson to be learned or what is conventionally thought to be important to learn. But he either can't or simply doesn't do more. So, my rating is average. And I would discourage those wanting more from taking this course.
Date published: 2021-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great overview of top fiction Excellent presentation. Broadened my reading experience. Wanted to read more...
Date published: 2021-12-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course This is my third course and I am surprised at how good they are. I enjoy Prof Krasny who really knows his fiction works.
Date published: 2021-11-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great lectures Bay Area radio listeners will recognize the erudite Michael Krasney from KQED's Forum program. Here he chooses 24 short stories, easy to find online, and gives great context and analysis. Highly recommended.
Date published: 2021-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fine lecturer and well-chosen material Much depends on how you take to Krasny's style. I liked him a lot. And the 23 stories were diverse and well-chosen, all but one of them available in PDF on the internet. Half-hour was a good length for the lectures.
Date published: 2020-04-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Chess Very sophisticated. Knowledgeable and clearly communicated. Won the three first chess games of my life.
Date published: 2019-12-09
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More than a shorter version of a novel, the short story is a unique and rewarding literary form in itself. In Masterpieces of Short Fiction, esteemed scholar and educator Dr. Michael Krasny takes you into 23 renowned short stories from iconic writers like Edgar Allan Poe and Ernest Hemingway. You explore how tales such as "The Cask of Amontillado" and "The Killers" characterize the artistry and insight found in these miniature masterpieces. Travel into a world of imagination and gain an appreciation of how these great authors elevated the craft of storytelling into an art form whose impact can last a lifetime.


Michael Krasny

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.


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 Life (Stanford University Press, 2007), which was on the San Francisco Chronicle and the Marin Independent Journal best-seller lists. Professor Krasny hosts KQED's award-winning Forum, a news and public affairs radio program. He is a veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures and worked for many years as host of one of ABC's highest-rated radio programs. He has worked as host of KQED's television programs This Week in Northern California and Civic Space and as substitute host for National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation. Professor Krasny received four Kudo Awards from American Women in Radio and Television and the National Public Radio Award from the American Publishers Association. He received two Emmy nominations for his television work.

Excavations—Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado”

01: 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.

33 min

02: 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.

29 min
Under Gogol's

03: 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.

29 min
Maupassant’s “The Necklace”—Real and Paste

04: 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.

29 min
Chekhov, Love, and

05: 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.

28 min
James in the Art Studio—

06: 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.

31 min
Epiphany and the Modern in Joyce's

07: 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.

30 min

08: 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.

30 min
Male Initiation—Hemingway's

09: 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.

30 min
Kafka's Parable—

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.

29 min
Lawrence's Blue-eyed

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.

28 min
Female Initiation—Mansfield's

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.

32 min
Jackson's Shocking Vision in

13: Jackson's Shocking Vision in "The Lottery"

The mid-century focus begins with "The Lottery," a tale that shocked the 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.

32 min

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.

31 min
Paley on Survival and

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.

31 min
The “Enormous Wings” of García Márquez

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.

30 min
A New World Fable—Malamud's

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.

30 min

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.

32 min

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.

31 min

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.

30 min

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.

29 min

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.

29 min

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.

33 min
Why Short Fiction Masterpieces?

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.

35 min