A Century of American Short Stories (LLS 147BOS)
Meets Tuesdays, 6:45 to 9:15 p.m.
Sept. 13 - 27 & Oct. 25 - Nov. 22
400 Atlantic Avenue, Boston, @ Goulston & Storrs
Beginning with Hemingway's In Our Time (1925) and concluding with Elizabeth Strout's Olive Kitteridge (2008), this course explores a wide range of American short stories. We will devote a week apiece to each of eight writers. Rather than attempt to sample the huge output in this genre, our goal is to delve more deeply into these selected writers' concerns and procedures so as to identify the characteristic voice of each.
- What insights into multifaceted modern America does a study of eight writers (from the 1920s into the new century) provide us?
- From Hemingway's Michigan to Faulkner's Mississippi to Erdrich's Northwest to Strout's Maine: how does the idea of a particularly resonant landscape operate in these stories? How does that idea change from the 1920s to the beginning of the 21st century?
- All these writers are properly identified as American, yet a number of further categories are needed to assess their work responsibly—categories such as gender, region, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. What role do these further categories play in shaping the writers' work? What are the strengths and limits of thinking of the writers in terms of these categories?
- Given the range of practices we see in our writers, do any particular strengths and/or limits of the short story as a literary form seem to you to emerge?
- In what ways do several of the writers—Faulkner, Erdrich, Strout, among others—deploy the short story format as component parts of what seems as well to be a novel?
Philip Weinstein, Alexander Griswold Cummins Professor of Literature Emeritus. His decades of teaching at Swarthmore focused on modern European, British, and American fiction. His most recent books include Unknowing: The Work of Modernist Fiction (2005), Becoming Faulkner (2009), and Jonathan Franzen: The Comedy of Rage (2015). In LLS in Boston he previously taught courses on Faulkner and Proust.
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