ENG 612: Women Writers
MW 6-9 pm Devos
Lorrie Moore, introducing her forty choices for 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories (2015), noted that a story is “a noise in the night . . . something in the walls, the click and burst of heat through pipes, a difficult settling of eaves, ice sliding off the roof, the scurry of animals, the squawk of a floorboard, someone coming up the stairs—life itself, surprising and not entirely invited.”
The writers pictured here will serve as our anchors in searching out the surprising, provocative spaces we enter this coming summer—those places that pause the day and let us live experiences other than our own, offer parts to play that deepen and expand our own roles in the world, that hold up uncanny mirrors to who we thought we were. Eight short story collections published over the last twenty years take us into life as it is lived now. Some deal with those passed over by the trendy techie 21st century here in Michigan (Campbell), with transcontinental lives and the fraught nature of immigration (Okparanta, Adichie, Chang), with barren landscapes of the American West (Proulx, Meloy), and with the arduous task of “making it”—or not—in the middle class and its markers of success (Moore, Berlin).
Looking mainly at life as we now live it, we will conduct the usual literary business, embellishing our private reading time and public meeting time with writing papers (both daily and extensive) and with discussions and presentations that provide analyses, textual evidence, and arguments toward making sense of things.
Sources excerpted to help measure the experiences these stories provide: Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone (2016), Patricia Meyer Spacks’ Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind (1995), and Lauren Berlant’s “Intimacy” (Critical Inquiry Special Issue, 1998).
More events than these will also be in play: Isak Dinesen’s “Babette’s Feast,” Flannery O’Connor’s “Parker’s Back,” Banana Yoshimoto’s “Kitchen,” and Maile Meloy’s adaptation of her stories into film with the February 2017 release of Certain Women. Early enrollees may surely nominate from the further wealth of fabulous stories by women writers who will then become a part of our summer’s work. Final exam. 3 Credits.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's The Thing around Your Neck (2009)
Lucia Berlin's A Manual for Cleaning Women (2015)
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage (2009)
Lan Samantha Chang's Hunger: A Novella and Stories (1998)
Maile Meloy’s Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It (2009)
Lorrie Moore’s Self-Help (2007)
Chinelo Okparanta’s Happiness, like Water (2013)
Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories (1999)