Of all our fluctuating literary forms, the short story—thriving upon its own constraints— is perhaps the one that most explicitly demonstrates language’s astonishing capacity to generate an infinite amount of expressive possibilities from a finite set of rules. Increasingly, it also seems to be the fiction writer’s tool of choice: No other mechanism feels quite so particularly and sensitively calibrated to the strange disturbances of the modern world. In this class, we’ll take a close look at how short fiction has rapidly changed over the past decade, focusing on innovative writers who have discovered new possibilities within the limits of the genre. Using New American Stories as a primary text and supplementing it with selected pieces from a variety of different authors, we’ll look at luminaries like Don DeLillo, Joy Williams, Lydia Davis, Barry Hannah and Anne Carson alongside important new “technicians” like Rivka Galchen. Students will then be encouraged to participate in the evolution of the form by applying the narrative techniques and strategies they encounter to their own short fiction, which will be discussed in formal workshops. Luckily, there will also be several opportunities for us to attend readings from writers featured in the course.
Advanced Writing Courses (WRTNG-UG)