Reading & Writing Short Fiction

This course functions
as, 1.  an introduction to the elements
of fiction, 2. an introduction to writing and thinking critically about
literature, 3. a discussion of the located-ness of imaginative work in relation
to culture, history, and politics, 4. an introduction to techniques of writing
fiction. The course will employ a pedagogy that draws out connections among
these activities. We will review elements of fiction (plot, character,
dialogue, sign/symbol, point of view, timbre, setting, theme, genre); discuss
the located-ness or enmeshment of texts in history and culture by way of some
basic literary theory and terminology (especially narrative theory, psychology,
and materialist criticism); and do a series of exercises that develop creative
techniques. With each text, the aim will be to broaden your understanding of
the challenges, mechanics, pleasures, ethics, purposes, stakes of literary acts
(including your own), and to produce creative works that are thoughtful and
imaginative. The class will be built around primary units (on character,
setting, theme) in which we do close readings of a primary text, write critical
responses, and then do related creative exercises. Texts will be drawn largely
from contemporary short stories.

Course readings will include short stories (James
Baldwin, Frederick Bartheleme, Raymond Carver, Patricia Grace, Lisa Kanae,
Rodney Morales, Vladimir Nabokov, Gary Pak, Albert Wendt), essays and
interviews about elements of narrative and narrative fiction (M. M. Bahktin, Roland
Barthes, Wayne Booth, E. M. Forster, Henry James, John Edgar Wideman), essays
about literature and culture (Gloria Anzaldua, Judith Butler, Eduardo Galeano,
Audre Lourde, Martin Espada, Toni Morrison).