Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Rattawut  Lapcharoensap

Undergraduate Discipline


Graduate Program

MFA Writing Program

BA, Cornell University. MFA, University of Michigan. Fiction writer. Author of Sightseeing, a collection of short stories, which received the Asian American Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His work has appeared in Granta, One Story, The Guardian, Zoetrope, Best New American Voices, and Best American Non-Required Reading, among others. He is a recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin fellowship, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honor, and an Abraham Woursell Prize through the University of Vienna; he was named by Granta magazine to its list of “Best of Young American Novelists.” SLC, 2018–

Graduate Courses

MFA Writing 2020-2021

The Short Story


This workshop will focus on the short story. We will begin with Frank O’Connor’s claim, in his introduction to The Lonely Voice, that the short story is a form defined not by its length so much as by its subject matter—what he calls the lives of “submerged population groups,” individuals in their loneliness for whom a “normal society is the exception rather than the rule.” In other words: rebels, losers, the lonely, the lost, the marginalized, the dispossessed. In addition to workshopping student writing, we will examine relatively recent short story collections in the interest of thinking further about the form and its possibilities. Each week we will workshop up to two student manuscripts and discuss one short story collection. A familiarity with canonical short story collections—James Joyce’s Dubliners, Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, and Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time, et al.—is recommended. Depending upon the interests of the class, our readings may be drawn from the following list of titles: Alice Munro’s Open Secrets, Aleksandr Hemon’s The Question of Bruno, Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America, Edward P. Jones’ Lost in the City, Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son, Bryan Washington’s Lot, Junot Diaz’s Drown, Alistair MacLeod’s Island, Sherman Alexie’s Ten Little Indians, Jenny Zhang’s Sour Heart, George Saunders’ Pastoralia, Ottesa Moshfegh’s Homesick for Another World, James Kelman’s Translated Accounts, Grace Paley’s Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, Joan Silber’s Ideas of Heaven, Charles Baxter’s Believers, and Colin Barrett’s Young Skins.


Previous Courses

First-Year Studies: Writing and the Racial Imaginary

Open , FYS—Year

In what ways have American writers and artists rendered the felt experience of race and racial inequality? How might we understand race and racism not only as social forces but also as imaginative ones? And how might we, as writers and readers, productively grapple, contend, and engage with our own positions as artists and citizens within these historical and imaginative legacies? In other words, how might we fruitfully think about what Claudia Rankine and Beth Loffreda have recently called—in their anthology of the same name—“the racial imaginary”? Over the course of this yearlong creative-writing workshop, students will be asked to explore the American racial imaginary by examining writing in a variety of genres and disciplines—from short stories to personal essays and poetry, as well as academic criticism and historical scholarship—in the interest of producing and workshopping their own original writing. During the fall semester, students will meet with the instructor weekly for individual conferences. In the spring, we will meet weekly or every other week, depending on students’ needs and the progress of their conference projects.

Related Disciplines

Fiction Workshop: Style

Open , Seminar—Fall

This fiction-writing workshop will focus specifically on the pleasures of “style.” What is style? How do we know when we are in the presence of one? What are the hallmarks of a successful or moving style? When does style feel meaningful? And, conversely, when does it feel empty or artificial? In other words, how does style make itself substantive in fiction? Through an exploration of both canonical and contemporary short fiction, students will be urged to find not so much their “own” style as to think about and explore the many styles available to them as writers. Our time in class will be divided between close readings of published work and workshopping of student writing. In addition, students should expect, by the end of the term, to produce numerous imitation exercises, critical reflections, and a portfolio of fiction.

Related Disciplines

Fiction Workshop: Revision


“[O]ne’s plan, alas, is one thing and one’s result another,” Henry James says in the New York edition preface to The Wings of the Dove. We will try to think about what James calls, in that preface, “the gaps and the lapses” in our work, “the intentions that, with the best will in the world, were not to fructify,” “the absent values, the palpable voids, the missing links, the mocking shadows” that necessarily haunt any early draft, and our subsequent attempts to exorcise those specters. We will do this primarily by workshopping early drafts of student work alongside revisions of that work, examining the concrete way that each revision meets or fails to meet (or even re-conceptualizes entirely) the ambitions and requirements of its earlier incarnation. Our assumption will be that most drafts—especially early ones—are largely failures, pocked with the Jamesian voids and lacunae mentioned above. Of course, anyone can fail in this manner—anybody can produce a disastrous first draft—but few are capable of failing (to use Samuel Beckett’s oft-quoted injunction) better. This course aims to provide you with the tools and the strategies to do so.



Open , Seminar—Spring

What is a character? How do you portray a person? And what does it mean to do so? The history of literature is full of eponymous works—Don Quixote, “Tristam Shandy,” David Copperfield, to name but a canonical few—works that often seek to examine a single character or consciousness over time. “Character studies,” or “portraiture,” might be another way of describing such writing, in which a writer brings all of his or her energies to bear upon the art of representing “other people”—and in which the machinations of “plot” take a relative back seat to questions of “character” (and all that such a character might reveal). In this course, we will look at examples of “literary portraiture” in the hopes of generating our own. Our readings will include classics of the form (Melville’s “Bartleby,” Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Saul Bellow’s Herzog, Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, and Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Woman Warrior), as well as relatively contemporary examples (Evan Connell’s Mrs. Bridge, John Williams’ Stoner, Dorothy Baker’s Cassandra at the Wedding, Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red, Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Maggie Nelson’s Jane: A Murder, Svetlana Alexievich’s Voices from Chernobyl, J. M. Coetzee’s Elizabeth Costello, and W. G. Sebald’s The Emigrants). Throughout the course, we will be asking questions about what makes for a plausible character or interior life in writing, what tools are available at writers’ disposal in their attempts to portray “other people,” and what’s often at stake in such efforts. Through close readings of published work, individual conferences, generative writing exercises, and workshops of each other’s writing, students will work towards crafting and presenting their own work of portraiture by the end of the term.

Related Disciplines