E. Laurie George
The American and English short story, with attention to the influence of writers of other cultures. Aspects of the short story that distinguish it, in style and purpose, from longer fiction.
“Novel: a short story padded.”
--Ambrose Bierce, -The Devil’s Dictionary-, 1911
“When you can assume that your audience holds the same beliefs you do, you can relax a little and use more normal means of talking to it; when you have to assume that it does not, then you have to make your vision apparent by shock—to the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost-blind you draw large and startling figures”
--Flannery O’Connor “The Fiction Writer and His Country”
“Each writer's prejudices, tastes, background, and experience tend to limit the kinds of characters, actions, and settings he can honestly care about, since by nature of our mortality we care about what we know and might possibly lose (or have already lost), dislike that which threatens what we care about, and feel indifferent toward that which has no visible bearing on the safety of the people and things we love" --John Gardner _The Art of Fiction_
This class in fiction celebrates the shorter rather than the longer narrative—the reading, writing, and interpretive critique of it.
Ambrose Bierce will be one of the “unpadded” writers whose fiction we will read first. Bierce’s stories are particularly fascinating, especially framed within the contexts of Flannery O’Connor’s and John Gardner’s assumptions about fiction. Over the course quarter, we will read stories as a means of investigating what subjects Ambrose Bierce and others cared about and thought they might lose or have lost, and we'll analyze how they crafted "unpadded" narratives with themes and styles that shocked the reading publics--both then and now.
All of the stories we'll read are modern and contemporary, stylistically conventional or experimental. We'll talk about why.
My primary goals of the course include:
*increasing your reading enjoyment of the short story and sophisticating your reading practices
*exposing you to a variety of fictional authors, genres, styles, and literary movements
*enhancing your critical abilities, both orally and in writing, to analyze, interpret and evaluate responses to stories
*convincing you that the critical reading of fiction can help immensely in the practical reading and plotting of life
Course print texts include Ann Charters' _The Story and Its Writer_ as well as one or two stories online or otherwise distributed to you.
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
lecture, but primarily discussion--it is essential for you to be in class daily and to participate actively, thoughtfully, and vocally.
Class assignments and grading
Short in-class presentations of aspects of the stories we read; short written assignments; a final examination.
Discussion, presentations, frequent essay writing.