ENG 605 (Seminar in American Literature): The American Short Story
The American Short Story—Classic and Contemporary. Writers and their signature works, especially those that have proved both beloved and baffling—like Herman Melville and his “Bartleby,” Nathaniel Hawthorne and that youthful “Goodman Brown,” Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s narrator trapped in “The Yellow Wall-Paper,” and Flannery O’Connor’s not so “Good Country People”—will enjoy a holiday as we engage in perhaps equally powerful but less frequently anthologized stories that complement and comment upon their more canonical counterparts. Using Joyce Carol Oates’ The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 2nd edition, we will read nearly sixty stories in depth, preparing not only our own analyses but also frequently working up summaries from the critical context. We will bask in the decadent pleasure as well as the intellectual rigor that the world of American short fiction offers. From James (Henry) to Jhumpa (Lahiri), we will dance upon, skate around, chase, and hound these pieces into divulging some modicum of their wealth of ways to mean. We will enjoy discussions of each literary epoch in turn, designate the quotes, scene moves, and character revelations that enable the story work in our imaginative lives and resonant for us long after we have to part in early August. If you like reading, talking up, writing about, researching, and writing more about the particularly American human experience, this class works.