Wesley Brown

BA, State University of New York–Oswego. MA, The City College of the City University of New York. Novelist, playwright, and teacher born and raised in Harlem, NYC, his work includes three acclaimed novels—Tragic Magic, Darktown Strutters, and Push Comes to Shove—and three produced plays—Boogie Woogie and Booker T, Life During Wartime, and A Prophet Among Them. Co-editor of the multicultural anthologies, Imagining America and Visions of America;  editor of the Teachers & Writers Guide to Frederick Douglass; and wrote the narration for a segment of the PBS documentary, W.E.B. Dubois: A Biography in Four Voices. SLC, 2015, 2017–

Graduate Courses

Writing 2018-2019

Fiction Craft: The Writing of Politically Engaged Fiction

Craft—Fall

One of the enduring assertions of the second wave of the Feminist Movement in the United States, beginning in the late 1960s, was that the personal is political. Despite the skepticism that often greets fiction attempting to engage contemporary political issues, some of the most significant works of fiction in recent years have dramatized how the personal fates of characters are shaped by political events beyond the immediate circumstances of their lives as individuals. In this course, students will read eight works of fiction (Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas, A Person of Interest by Susan Choi, Brief Encounters With Che Guevera by Ben Fountain, An Untamed State by Roxane Gay, Telex From Cuba by Rachel Kushner, The Last of Her Kind by Sigrid Nunez, The Association of Small Bombs by Karan Mahajan, and Run by Ann Patchett) that use various narrative strategies to tell the stories of individuals who are also informed by the larger political realities in the world they inhabit. Students will engage in class discussions, examining the strategies used by each writer to make a personal story resonate politically. Each student will be required to give a presentation on how effective a particular work of fiction is in fulfilling the assertion that the personal is political. The typed written notes of class presentations must be turned in by the end of the semester.

Faculty

Previous Courses

Fiction Craft: The Varieties of Narrative Style, or The How of Telling a Story

Craft—Fall

In the opening of Toni Morrison’s novel, The Bluest Eye, the narrator acknowledges to the reader the difficulties in explaining “Why” the calamities visited upon a particular family occurred—but then adds that the story as it unfolds will concern itself with “How.” This seems to be the challenge for every writer: to discover how to tell a story about the lives of specific human beings that will convey to the writer and the reader the meaning of those lives from perspectives which neither may have considered before. In this course, students will read 10 novels, along with essays about and interviews with the writers. Students will engage in class discussions, examining how particular narrative strategies—epistolary; first, second, and third person; multiple narrative perspective; dialogue and interior driven narratives; nonsequential narrative; story within a story; and mix of fiction and autobiography—are used by writers to present readers with a challenging relationship to the story they are trying to tell. Books: 84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff, The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud, The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich, Snowdrops by A.D. Miller, The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta by Mario Vargas Llosa, The Appointment by Herta Muller, The Whites by Richard Price, An Ishmael of Syria by Asaad Almohammed, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood, and Making It Up by Penelope Lively.

Faculty

Fiction Craft Course: Storytelling and the Art of Not-Knowing

Craft—Fall

Ernest Hemingway once remarked that when writing a story, he wrote until he knew what was going to happen next. He would begin again the following day, allowing the time away from writing to undermine his certainty about where the story was headed. For Hemingway, a story had the best chance of coming fully to life when the act of writing was an ongoing process of discovering what he did not know. In this course, students will read ten works of fiction, including essays about and interviews with the various writers. Class discussions will focus on how these writers construct stories that follow the arc of Hemingway’s storytelling strategy from not-knowing to discovery.

Books:

In Our Time-- Ernest Hemingway
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories-- Flannery O’Connor
Angels-- Denis Johnson
Sula-- Toni Morrison
Mao II-- Don DeLillo
Tracks-- Louise Erdrich
The Untouchable-- John Banville
Moral Disorder and Other Stories-- Margaret Atwood
The Night Inspector-- Frederick Busch
The Unfinished Novel and Other Stories-- Valerie Martin

Faculty