We often tell stories with urgency – to reflect, confess, share, inform, and convince– because the world and our lives needs to be expressed and understood in complex ways. There is nothing more complex, and near perfect, as a short story that can accomplish all of these things.
This course will serve as an introduction to short fiction through the practice of literary analysis and creative writing. There are two narratives, one superimposed on the other, that run through a short story—both of which we will discuss, but in particular this course will help elucidate how to read for a narrative of decisions and the making of a story. With that in mind, this course emphasizes the practice of reading as a preface and means to understanding both how and why we write short fiction.
Thematically, this course will be organized around two pressing questions: In what ways can short stories invite us into worlds that are and are not our own, and likewise how do we invite stories to dwell in us? As a reimagining and representation of reality and history, how do short stories function as maps that help us move through the present and into the future?
We will encounter a wide range of content, with themes addressing place & community, love & intimacy, innocence & loss, identity & inheritance, gender & sexuality, history & trauma, and migration & diaspora. We will not read full story collections by authors but rather survey work by short story practitioners that range from canonical fiction writers like Raymond Carver, to contemporary writers like Carmen Maria Machado.
As we learn how to become better readers of short fiction by discussing form, we will also shift our attention to considering the ethics and stakes of our own writing by questioning our choices and aims in crafting stories.
Throughout the semester, students will produce close readings of texts, a critical paper, and several short fiction pieces.
Required Texts (This list is subject to change. Individual readings will be made available on Laulima):
James Baldwin, Krys Lee, Alexander Chee, Raymond Carver, Andrew Lam, Tim O’Brien, Nami Mun, Kapena Landgraf, T.C. Boyle, Paul Yoon, NoViolet Bulawayo, Kristiana Kahaukawila, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Richard Ford, Sandra Cisneros, Carmen Maria Machado, Jhumpa Lahiri, Louise Erdrich, Edward P. Jones, Jenny Zhang, Rodney Morales, Yiyun Li, Kaui Hart Hemmings, Annie Proulx, and excerpts from Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories.
-Ryan, Shawna Yang. Water Ghosts. New York: Penguin Books, 2009. ISBN-10: 0143117270