The New Yorker

The New Yorker First Issue Cover

Cover of First Issue of The New Yorker (February 21, 1925)

The New Yorker never intended to be a journal of serious social commentary, or to frontally attack the issues of the day. It was purposefully light-hearted and chose to get its message across through caricatures and satires rather than in-depth news reporting. The New Yorker‘s official myth has come to consist of three main parts: “the eccentric editorial leader, a disorganized and unreliable staff, and unexpected success rewarding creative chaos in the absence of an editorial plan.”

The New Yorker became an important part of American popular culture and played a crucial role in developing American comic traditions. The mid-1930s saw the inclusion of American Humor into the Academy as a subject worthy of academic study. It claimed its own right as a discipline, “halfway between folklore and literature.” Editors cultivated contributors who specialized in a single mode; there were authors of verse and fiction, artists to create cartoons and idea drawings, and some contributors who could do both, like James Thurber. Tina Brown, who served for a six-year term as editor in the 1990s, described the old New Yorker as “full of mischief, lots of wit, and covers bursting with life.” The New Yorker was writing for affluent, young, college-educated urbanites who formed a “visible and potent generation of reader-consumers.” In a shift away from traditional folksy, rustic wisdom and humor, the magazine developed a fast-paced, witty, highly cultured and artsy type of humor. This was understandable, since they were recruiting staff members and writers from an exclusive system of networks that included Ivy League universities, elite social circles, and local journalism.
(Adapted from
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Course Description


The New Yorker School of Fiction” is a phrase that one encounters in reading about the development of the short story in America after 1925.  Dale Kramer says–and we may come to disagree with him–that the “New Yorker short story  probably causes more debate, and results in more distemper, than anything else about the magazine.”  Editors of The New Yorker, however, reportedly deny that there is any such thing as a “New Yorker story.”  We will read a number of stories from back and current issues of The New Yorker in an attempt to characterize “The New Yorker School,” if such a thing does in fact exist.  This will necessarily lead us to examine The New Yorker itself: the editorial principles upon which Harold Ross founded it in 1925 and the degree to which William Shawn carried Ross’s vision into the 1980’s.We will also focus on the effects that publishing in The New Yorker appears to have on its authors, particularly on those whose work typically has appeared in other magazines.  Is there a difference in kind between an author’s New Yorker stories and his stories published elsewhere?  Often Fitzgerald (not a New Yorker writer) wrote for the Saturday Evening Post.  Do authors write for The New Yorker? Do authors heavily revise their New Yorker stories when they are collected between hard covers?  Does a writer “change” after his/her first story has appeared in The New Yorker?  Raymond Carver, who published in The New Yorker but who is not a New Yorker writer, may be interesting to consider in this regard.  Why are stories from The New Yorker more widely anthologized than those from any other magazine?  These are some of the questions that we will address in an attempt to explore the relationship between The New Yorker and its authors.

The New Yorker Graduate Seminar Syllabus

Honors Version of The New Yorker Seminar


Due Dates for Assignments (Honors)

Up for discussion on February 12th

Up for discussion on February 26th (postponed from the 19th)

  • “Bronze” by Jeffrey Eugenides from February 5, 2018 issue
  • “Stanville” by Rachel Kushner from February 12 & 19, 2018 issue

Up for discussion on March 12th

“Mrs. Crasthorpe” from February 26th issue
“Mrs. Crasthorpe”

Up for discussion on April 2

  • “The Pooltroon Husband” by Joseph O’Neill
    click here
  • “No More Maybe” by Gish Jen
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Up for discussion on April 30th