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The Short Story

CWL 267

Same as ENGL 245. See ENGL 245.

A wide-ranging introduction to shorter works of fiction, this course will cover some influential texts from the nineteenth century, as well as a generous selection of stories from the turn of the twentieth century and modernism, but we will spend at least half the semester studying innovative and diverse works produced in the last five decades, often by writers with a complicated or frankly oppositional relationship to these canonical traditions. Along the way, we will consider the role of historical and cultural context in shaping our interpretations of these literary texts, and we will put into practice some key terms drawn from narratology and various schools of critical theory. Possible authors include Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Ray Bradbury, Willa Cather, Kate Chopin, Julio Cortazar, Edwidge Danticat, Louise Erdrich, William Faulkner, James Joyce, Jamaica Kincaid, Ursula K. Le Guin, Sandra Tsing Loh, Herman Melville, Bharati Mukherjee, Sabina Murray, Flannery O'Connor, Edgar Allan Poe, Alice Walker, Richard Wright, and Helena Maria Viramontes. Requirements: three major essay projects, informal journal assignments, and regular class participation.

This course studies twentieth-century literature of the Americas, focusing on the short story genre. We will read stories written in the U.S. Mainland by well-established American writers as well as short stories written by Latina and African American women authors to see one recent development in this genre. The course discusses, first, this latest surge in short story writing, and then it examines the canonical works that precede it. Short stories are condensed narratives that provide an alternative sense of reality and a keen sense of cultural/national belonging. At the same time, they tell a story of a “self” on a journey, that is, an individual going through a process of change and transformation. In this course, we will examine the tension between two concurrent impulses: the writing of the individual self and his/her experiences and the use of writing to represent their particular sense of reality. We’ll discuss the implications of these two levels of representation by examining the points where the individual and cultural experience meet and challenge each other. Possible themes for discussion include: self and wilderness, national identity, ecology, spanglish, racism, sexism, machismo, feminism, sexuality, gender, colonialism, reality/fantasy. Texts Oates, Joyce Carol, ed. The Oxford Book of American Short Stories. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-19-974439-8.