E 348 • Twentieth-century Short Story
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
The focus of this course is beauty and, consequently, the techniques used by short-story writers to achieve it. Beauty, as I narrowly define it here, means that the technique of the story matches what it comprehends. In this sense, one cannot separate the telling of the story from the story itself. Although we will review the various critical approaches to short fiction, the emphasis will always be upon the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of the storyteller and the relationship between technique and meaning.
This focus will lead us to discussions about aesthetic effect--its nature and its value. Are all the writers who take this lofty road trying to widen the sphere of human sensibility through contact with beauty? Are they assuming that empathy with the human condition can best be transmitted through beauty? Do these writers truly believe that the sadness of sophistication can be tempered by the mercy of imagination? Or are they, less cerebrally, just telling us a good story for the good story's sake and the beauty they create is a mere thoughtless consequence of devotion to craft?
There will be five 4-8 page analytical essays (one in-class, four out of class), and regular pop quizzes, four of five of which will be short in-class essays. Since coming to class prepared every time is the most important thing I value, the pop quizzes will be valued at 15% of your final grade. If you cannot keep up with regular and close reading, this is not the course for you. There will be a penalty for unexcused absences.
Five Essays 75%
We will read a minimum of three short stories per class. At three times during the semester, we will pause over several works by one writer--this semester, it will be Denis Johnson, Eudora Welty, Raymond Carver, and Flannery O'Connor.
Fiction 100, ed. James H. Pickering
Denis Johnson, Jesus' Son
Eudora Welty, A Curtain of Green and Other Stories
Flannery O'Connor, Everything that Rises Must Converge