The Contemporary Short Story
In this class, we will read, discuss, and closely study stories that are: (1) between 2,000 and 12,000 words; (2) labeled fiction; and (3) published after 1960. We will think about how each story makes us feel and what thoughts we have at what moments in each story. We will try to determine exactly why (due to which sentences, words, images, connections and due to what from our own lives, prejudices, likes/dislikes) we feel or think what we think about each story. We will discern techniques (general, author-specific, story-specific), structures, types of titles, and types of endings (special attention to the beginnings and endings of stories) and maintain a public website listing our notes on each story, creating a kind of database of terms. We will think about why each story was written, what message or emotion or mood the author wanted to convey, explore, memorialize, organize. We will read interviews with and essays by short-story writers, introductions and reviews of short-story anthologies, and articles criticizing or defending contemporary short-story trends. We will read one or two short stories by the following: Amy Hempel, Curtis Sittenfeld, Lorrie Moore, Joy Williams, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Kevin Brockmeier, Trinie Dalton, David Foster Wallace, Rebecca Curtis, Deb Olin Unferth, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, James Purdy, Todd Hasak-Lowy, Denis Johnson, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, A. M. Homes, Stephen Dixon, Lore Segal, Arthur Bradford, Sherman Alexie, Charles Johnson, and others.