Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


This study examines the short fiction of Mark Twain in relation to major theories concerning the short story genre. Despite his popularity as a novelist and historical figure, Twain has not been recognized as a major figure in the development of the short story genre. This study attempts to show that the short fiction produced by Twain deserves greater regard within studies specific to the short story, and calls for a reconsideration of Twain as a dynamic figure in the development of the genre. The introductory chapter lays the groundwork for understanding how the short story genre has developed since its inception as an actual literary genre, and outlines the existing Twain scholarship concerning his short fiction. Differences between the traditional and modern forms of the short story are defined, and Twain's chronological position in the evolution of the genre is briefly explained. Chapter one examines two of Twain's short stories—"The $30,000 Bequest" and "The Man That Corrupted Hadleyburg"—in relation to the compositional theories of the first major short story theorist: Edgar Allan Poe. This chapter shows how these two Twain stories abide by Poe's rules concerning unity of effect. Chapter two explores Twain's "Journalism in Tennessee" and "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" in relation to the modern short story, and examines these two stories through the lens of Mikhail Bakhtin's theories of genre. This chapter closely examines Twain's use of various dialects to show that these two stories contain an unrealized complexity and are very closely related to the ostensibly "plotless" short fiction that developed in the twentieth century. The final chapter takes Twain's "The Mysterious Stranger" and examines it with respect to both old and new theories of the short story genre. This chapter shows how "The Mysterious Stranger" fuses both traditional and modern forms of the short story genre. The conclusion to this chapter reiterates the argument for a greater appreciation of Twain as a short story artist.


English Language and Literature | Literature in English, North America