The short stories of Ohio-born William Dean Howells (1837-1920), the leading figure in American realism, have been largely unknown to the reading public, at least partly because of their general unavailability and because of the difficulties of identifying, among Howells's voluminous short writings, those that are clearly short stories.
Selected Short Stories of William Dean Howells includes the full texts of thirteen of Howells's short stories, each preceded by a thorough critical analysis, and an annotated short story list, identifying and discussing all of Howells's short stories.
His stories, often in surprisingly comic and fresh ways, explore the slippery nature of perception, the variance between the ethical and the aesthetic points of view, the benefits and hazards of the creative imagination, and the requirements and responsibilities of personal morality.
More than his novels or other writings, Howells's late stories reveal his fascination with psychology and his interest in psychic phenomena. These forgotten stories expose a side of Howells unknown even to many Americanists.
Conversely, the early stories are invaluable in revealing his development as a writer and his concern, even at an early age, with themes that permeate the entire Howells canon.
Taken as a group, this carefully edited selection of short stories provides a complete and manageable overview of the artistic and moral concerns of William Dean Howells and the span and evolution of his contribution to this genre.
Ruth Bardon, who was educated at Swarthmore College, the Writers Workshop at the University of Iowa, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, now lives in Durham, North Carolina.
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