The Short Story in English

By Henry Seidel Canby | Go to book overview

PREFACE

A HISTORY which has for its subject a literary type invites criticism and risks dulness. For the excellence of such a work must depend not so much upon the facts included as upon the author's interpretation of them, and it will be interesting only so far as he succeeds in relating an abstraction, his chosen literary type, to the concrete life of the race which found expression by means of it. Instead of pleasant personalities, with gossip and idiosyncrasies pertaining to them, he must deal with theoretical matters; discourse often of definitions instead of love affairs, of technique when the beauty of subject or style would be more agreeable. In the attempt, he risks aggravating the critic, and boring the reader, than which dangers none in the world of authorship are to be more prayerfully avoided.

I am well aware that, for this critical history of the short story, these two dangers are particularly serious. Since the short story as a literary type has not been given much prominence in histories of literature, it often has been necessary in this book to blaze, for the first time, the path of its development. I have endeavored always to be governed in my trail-making by the lay of the land, but I cannot hope to satisfy all critics with my blazes. Again, although I have tried strenuously to discuss all theoretical developments only in relation to the living minds which caused them, yet I fear the reader may

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