The Complete Stories Syllabus
Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories is a landmark collection of short fiction that showcases the evolution of one of the greatest American authors. Spanning from 1921 to 1955, most of the tales in The Complete Stories only appeared in literary magazines during her lifetime. Together, they attest to Hurston’s remarkable range, and introduce themes that haunt her lengthier works. Rich in literary imagery and style, with a commanding narrative voice, the collection fully establishes Hurston as a master not just of the long-form narrative, but of the short-form as well.
Suggested Course Use
While courses on Southern short fiction often overlook the contributions of black women writers, Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories is an indispensable addition to such a course, offering an entirely different, often marginalized perspective. A course examining the trajectory of Southern female fiction from the 19th century onwards might start with Kate Chopin’s socially progressive tales. Then, students could read Zora Neale Hurston’s The Complete Stories and selections from Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Katherine Anne Porter, and Carson McCullers, and in doing so, examine the commonalities of mid-century female authorship in the South, as well as the differing preoccupations of black and white writers. Topics to discuss include the roles women were expected to play; the racial tensions that exist in an unequal society; the role of religion in women’s lives; and the social consequences of sexual behavior. Moving on in the century, the course could then examine rural relationships in Bobbie Ann Mason’s Shiloh and Other Stories, and sexuality in Dorothy Allison’s Trash: Short Stories. All together, these short works of fiction will highlight the recurring aspects of Southern literature, from the gothic and the grotesque, to questions of religion, class, gender, race, and, most importantly, place.