Ok, here goes! Let’s start with The Bedford Introduction to Literature, and then go into The Story and Its Writer: An Introduction to Short Fiction.
The Bedford Introduction to Literature [just Bedford from here on] is broken up into four categories: Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Critical Thinking and Writing. Each category includes sections and subsections as follows:
The Elements of Fiction
Topics include: Reading Fiction, Writing about Fiction, Plot, Character, Setting, Point of VIew, Symbolism, Theme, Style, Tone, and Irony, and Combining the Elements of Fiction.
Approaches to Fiction
Includes studies of Nathaniel Hawthorne, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner’s “Barn Burning”, James Joyce’s “Eveline”, The Literature of the South, and The Nature of Storytelling
A Collection of Stories
Includes An Album of Contemporary Stories, An Album of World Literature, and Stories for Further Reading
The Elements of Poetry
Topics include: Reading Poetry Responsively, Writing about Poetry, Word Choice, Word Order, and Tone, Images, Figures of Speech, Symbol, Allegory, and Irony, Sounds, Patterns of Rhythm, Poetic Forms, Open Form, and Combining the Elements of Poetry
Approaches to Poetry
Includes studies of Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”, Louise Erdrich, Dear John Wayne, The Love Poem and Teaching and Learning, and Border Crossings
An Anthology of Poems
Includes An Album of Contemporary Poems, An Album of World Literature, and A Collection of Poems
The Study of Drama
Topics include: Reading Drama, Writing about Drama, A Study of Sophocles, A Study of William Shakespeare, Modern Drama, A Critical Case Study: Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House, Experimental Trends in Drama, and A Cultural Case Study: David Hwang’s M. Butterfly
A Collection of Plays
Includes Plays for Further Reading, and An Album of Contemporary Plays
CRITICAL THINKING AND WRITING
Includes Critical Strategies for Reading, Reading and Writing, The Literary Research Paper, and Taking Essay Examinations
The above is just a brief version of the Bedford’s contents. For example, Reading Fiction (under The Elements of Fiction, under FICTION) includes additional sections and subsections. These include:
Reading Fiction Responsively
Kate Chopin, The Story of an Hour
A Sample Close Reading: An Annotated Section of “The Story of an Hour”
A Sample Paper: Differences in Responses to Kate Chopin’s “The Story of an Hour”
Explorations and Formulas
A Composite of a Romance Tip Sheet
A Comparison of Two Stories
Karen Van Der Zee, From A Secret Sorrow
Gail Godwin, A Sorrowful Woman
Perspective: Kay Mussell, Are Feminism and Romance Novels Mutually Exclusive?
Perspective: Thomas Jefferson, On the Dangers of Reading Fiction
Bedford contains an extensive amount of information. Too much to list here, but it’s all useful and interesting. This edition is 11 years old (2005), so there are more recent versions in circulation, but the contents are relatively timeless. This is one of the reasons I’ve decided to keep all of my anthologies in my permanent collection instead of selling/donating them.
Now, on to The Story and Its Writer [just Story from here]. Story is my most tabbed book,
and is made up of four main parts:
Part One STORIES
Part Two COMMENTARIES
Part Three CASEBOOKS
Part Four APPENDICES
STORIES is where you’ll find…well…stories. There are 117 authors represented in Part One of this anthology, including Virginia Woolf, Richard Wright, Alice Walker, John Updike, Eudora Welty, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, Nicholasa Mohr, Jamaica Kincaid, Franz Kafka, Herman Melville, Toni Cade Bambara, Margaret Atwood, and Woody Allen.
Each story, or set of stories, begins with a headnote about the author that gives details about the author’s background. Some of the stories, within the “Contents” list, have a related story, commentary, or casebook suggested underneath. For example, Russell Banks’ Black Man and White Woman in Dark Green Rowboat is followed by a related story–Ernest Hemingway, Hills Like White Elephants–and a related commentary by the author himself (found in Part Two). Raymond Carver’s stories–Cathedral, Errand, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Love–have a related casebook (found in Part Three) which includes writings by Carver himself as well as commentary by other authors (i.e., Olga Knipper, Henri Troyat, Arthur M. Saltzman, and A. O. Scott).
Not all of the authors listed in Part One have commentaries and casebooks associated with their stories. Some, like Ann Beattie with Snow, only have one story in Part One and no associated commentary or casebook.
COMMENTARIES includes writings by the authors who have stories in Part One as well as various authors writing about the stories and authors in Part One. There are 65 authors in this section who comment on their personal theories of writing or discuss particular works of others.
Sherman Alexie writes Superman and Me, John Cheever writes Why I Write Short Stories, and Kate Chopin writes How I Stumbled upon Maupassant.
This section of Story includes wonderful commentary by wonderful writers. The commentaries take the reader deeper into the work, revealing concepts that may have slipped by if they hadn’t been pointed out.
CASEBOOKS are larger groups of commentaries on specific authors or concepts.The five important writers included in Part Three are Raymond Carver, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O’Connor, Joyce Carol Oates, and Edgar Allan Poe. The sixth casebook is on Graphic Storytelling (as in graphic novels, not making your reader horrifyingly queasy).
In addition to writings by the authors themselves, each casebook includes commentary by other authors.
Raymond–Olga Knipper, Henri Troyat, Tom Jenks, Arthur M. Saltzman, and A.O. Scott
Hurston–Robert Bone, Rosalie Murphy Baum, and Alice Walker
O’Connor–V.S. Pritchett, Robert H. Brinkmeyer Jr., Dorothy Tuck McFarland, Wayne C. Booth, and Sally Fitzgerald
Oates–Don Moser, Matthew C. Brennan, Publishers Weekly, and John Schwartz
Poe–D.H. Lawrence, Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren, James W. Gargano, J. Gerald Kennedy, David S. Reynolds, and Joan Dayan
The Graphic Storytelling casebook includes an excerpt from Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art (which I own), Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood (which I also own), and Art Spiegelman’s Maus (I own this one too), along with additional commentary by Will Eisner, R. Crumb and David Zane Mairowitz, Gilbert Hernandez, Jiro Taniguchi, and Lynda Barry.
APPENDICES, Part Four of Story, gives the reader even more insight into understanding the literature within its covers and contains the following sections:
Reading Short Stories [Includes Grace Paley, “Samuel”]
The Elements of Fiction
A Brief History of the Short Story
Writing about Short Stories
Literary Theory and Critical Perspectives
Glossary of Literary Terms
Chronological Listing of Authors and Stories
Following the Appendices is an index of authors and titles.
As I’m sure you’ve noticed, there is no quick way to piece apart an anthology. This could go on and on and on, but I won’t do that to you (I’d like you to stick around!). Regardless of the edition/year you have access to, The Bedford Introduction to Literature and The Story and Its Writer are both great intros into the world of literature and literary theory. Stick around and I’ll share with you more anthologies that cover a wide range of subjects.
In my next post I will be going over The Anthology of American Literature, The Heath Anthology of American Literature vol. A Colonial-1800, and The Heath Anthology of American Literature vol. B 1800-1865.