Prose Fiction

Our broad topic will be the art of prose fiction, but we will explore it by concentrating on the short story— and the very short story, sometimes called Flash Fiction. In addition to collections of short stories, starting with one of the modern masters, Edgar Allan Poe, we will be reading many examples of Flash Fiction, in some instances only a few pages long.

We will be concerned with genre—science fiction, detective, and Gothic tales, for example—as well as a variety of storytelling techniques and narrative elements such as plot, discourse, point of view, and focalization. Basic questions for understanding narratives will be an important focus: e.g. who speaks, who speaks to whom, who speaks when, who speaks what language, who speaks with what authority.

Stories give pleasure by amusing us; they tell us about the world, show us things from other vantages, enable us to understand the motives and desires of others. Stories present a paradox we will explore as a meta-theme: they are a powerful mechanism for internalizing norms, yet they often provide a site for social criticism.

Faulkner, William: Go Down, Moses
Poe, Edgar Allan: various titles [in a digital format]
Shapard, Robert and James Thomas, eds: Flash Fiction Forward: 80 Very Short Stories
Saunders, George: The Tenth of December
Weinstein, Alexander: Children of the New World

Students finishing the class will be more aware of the complexities of storytelling; will better understand the development of the short story within a wide arc of history; will develop stronger analytic vocabulary for interpreting the art of narrative.