The short story was invented in the middle of the nineteenth century. (Surprised? Look it up in the OED.) Many kinds of short fiction preceded it, including anecdote, parable, jest, fable, novella, fairy tale, and others, but the short story, focusing on atmosphere rather than plot or moral, was a novelty. In the decades before and after 1900 there was a tremendous output of short stories in most of the Western countries, with a prominence rarely equaled since. In this course we will survey the output of major figures of the era, considering the special qualities, the aims, the themes, and the local and national significance of these small forms. With a few stories from Boccaccio and the Arabian Nights as background, we will read a selection of these authors: Poe, Hawthorne, Melville, Maupassant, Conan Doyle, Verga, Alas, Chekhov.