Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Undergraduate Discipline

Writing

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. Recipient of a Whiting Writer’s Award, a DAAD Artist-in-Berlin fellowship, a National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 honor, an Abraham Woursell Prize through the University of Vienna, and was named by Granta magazine to its list of “Best of Young American Novelists.” SLC, 2018–

Undergraduate Courses 2018-2019

Writing

The Short Story

Open , Seminar—Year

This short story writing workshop is also a survey of the form’s history. We will begin with Frank O’Connor’s definition of the short story as a form characterized not by its length so much as by its subject matter: the lives of what he calls “submerged population groups,” people for whom a “normal society” is the “exception” rather than the “rule”; in short, outsiders, losers, the marginalized, the dispossessed, the ignored, the powerless, the subcultural. In this yearlong course, students will test O’Connor’s description of the form by examining several short-story collections in the hopes of generating a portfolio of stories about a “submerged population group” of their own. Beginning with Nikolai Gogol’s The Overcoat, we will then move on to canonical examples, as well as more recent examples, from Edward P. Jones, Raymond Carver, James Alan Macpherson, Grace Paley, Alice Munro, Denis Johnson, James Kelman, Junot Diaz, George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Sherman Alexie, Julie Otsuka, and Charles Baxter, among many others. Our time will be equally divided among reading published works, tracing the evolution of the short-story form, and examining each other’s efforts through weekly workshops, critical and generative writing exercises, and one-on-one conferences. Throughout, we will ask questions not only about craft and technique in short-story writing—matters of plot, voice, character, structure, setting, language, and the like—but also larger questions about the form itself and the traditions in which short-story writers are all necessarily enmeshed.

Faculty
Related Disciplines

Portraiture

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.

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Related Disciplines