E 379S • Contemporary Short Fiction
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
The course will examine the short-story form in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, using stories originally written in English, along with one translated work. Beginning with "The Lady with the Dog" by Anton Chekhov, we will examine the story as a literary form holding character, setting, action and consequence, and time. The goal of such reading is to be able to approach any short story with an open mind and the capacity to see how each writer works artfully within the form.
As well as participating in the class discussion, the students will choose one short-story collection from the reading list (excluding the O.Henry Prize Stories collections) as the subject of their papers throughout the semester. The first three papers will be short discussions of a story from the collection. The fourth paper will be an amalgamation of the three previous papers, as well as a discussion of the collection as a whole and biographical information on the writer gleaned from interviews or critical sources. It is intended to be the student's best written work, a summary of the semester's work on the short story and its writers. The final paper will also be a challenge to edit down the three previous papers and add new material. This plan requires the choice, early on in the semester, of a collection, and the reading has been designed to help the students make the decision well.
Peer review and writing in stages is emphasized in the course through the prospectus and the first draft; both are opportunities to receive helpful comments and fine-tune your ideas and your prose. Your prospectus should be no more than one page and should contain the main thesis of your paper. The first draft should contain the thesis and back-up of your argument with examples from the text. The first three papers must be no more than four pages. The final paper must be no more than ten pages.
Occasionally, the students will be given time at the beginning of class to compose their thoughts about the stories under discussion for the class or other topics.
Your writing style is crucial to your success in the course. Above all, I value clarity, directness, and substantiated arguments.
Class participation 15%
Short Story Collections:
Jean Stafford, Collected Stories
Joan Silber, Ideas of Heaven
Richard Yates, Eleven Kinds of Loneliness
Jean Rhys, Tigers Are Better-looking
Alice Munro, The View from Castle Rock
John Fowles, The Ebony Tower
Katherine Anne Porter, Collected Stories
William Trevor, A Bit on the Side
Edward P. Jones, Lost in the City
Deborah Eisenberg, Twilight of the Superheroes
The O.Henry Prize Stories 2006 and 2007