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The method of studying the short story here presented is based upon two ideas. The first is that the well-equipped student of the short story should have in mind a number of standard examples which exhibit in concrete form the chief elements and principles of importance. The second is that the best way to see in those examples the elements and principles in question is by some very definite and systematic method of analysis.
The study of the short story has developed of late into diverse lines. There have been excellent studies of the history of the matter, which have exhibited the development of the form from very early times. There have been critical analyses which have taken their illustrations of principles or qualities from whatever examples might be found in the broad field. There have been guides to the writing of the short story which have given such practical and theoretical help as was possible to those who wished to write short stories themselves.
We have followed none of these methods. Any treatment of the short story will include a good deal of general material, and much within our pages will be familiar to all who have followed the development of the study. But our particular course is different from those just mentioned.
We have presented a limited number of well known standard stories. In the study of any phase or form of art, the student should have well in mind a few classic examples. Then he can pursue with intelligence a broad · reading which will present to him all the possibilities of the art in which he is interested. We have selected our chief
examples from American literature, partly because it was in America that the modern short story was first developed, and partly because in a limited field we can indicate something of the actual development, which we do not treat in detail.
In the study of these examples we have followed a very definite method, because it seems the case that in the study of fiction, at least, a student's attention is especially likely to become diffused over a broad field, so that he often neglects the very thing that would be useful to him at the time, while gaining perhaps something that would be better at another time. We have made these exercises very specific, not because all literary study should be of this specific sort, but because at the beginning of a study like this, one wants to get correct ideas to measure by. We by no means feel that we are pointing out ways in which one should always study the short story. We are pointing out ways which will train the mind to look at short stories so as to perceive instinctively certain things. After such study the mind should work naturally in certain ways, as we may say. The student will know the main things that have been done with the short story, and he will turn to the current short story with the ability to compare and enjoy.
One or two minor points may be noted. We have put the work in such form as will make the student think things out for himself. That, of course, calls for no comment. We have laid stress on the importance of getting the author's own standpoint. That may be a little original, but everybody will agree that if we can see a story as the author saw it, we shall certainly have one sort of appreciation. / We have tried to make it clear that in literary study, there is not only opinion but fact. This is something that everybody knows, but present methods
have rather tended to put the facts in the background. ' Some facts, however, may be more important than some opinions. Poe's own opinion of one or another of his works is probably more valuable to the student than the opinion of one or another of his critics, which may be better in itself. But Poe's opinion is a matter of historic fact to be determined by the methods of history, if we know them, or if we do not, by whatever way we can.
We have, however, gone beyond the limits of our particular method in offering with every exercise suggestions for further reading and study. Any method of study, however excellent, should give some opportunity for the student to read and think on his own account.
Any teacher may find in the suggestions for work offered in these exercises more than can be included in such a course as he wishes to give. We have thought it worth while to provide material for a variety of interests. It will be easy to make a selection from the suggestions for further work which shall suit any particular class. The main thing of importance is to keep in mind the definite and systematic kind of work to be done. Then, whether much ground be covered or little, the student will have in mind a method of work, a way of looking at his subject, which is the principal end to be attained.