A rare opportunity for any student to take a short story writing course with David Shields this summer--VLPA

Instructor:  David Shields    dshields@davidshields.com

ENGL 284 A (A Term): Beginning Short Story Writing

M - Th 9:40--11:20 RAI 107

A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of brevity; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence.

We are mortal beings. There is no evidence yet of god. We live in a hyper-digitalized culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules.

Students will read Life Is Short; Art Is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity and do the prompts suggested by the book (we’ll do as many of them as we can).

Read the whole book on your own, page by page, including the commentaries by Elizabeth Cooperman and me (we are the book’s co-editors). In class, students and I will discuss individual chapters as time allows. It’s crucial that you read the book on your own, chapter by chapter as we go and/or all the way through.

In class, students will read aloud their work and critique one another’s work. That is the core focus of the course. Students will learn the virtue of brevity, the key principles of literary composition in general (for novels, short stories, essays, etc.), and the many gestures available to the contemporary writer.

This is not a course in fiction or nonfiction per se. This is a course in prose composition. In how to write. You can write whatever you want: prose-poem, personal essay, fiction, graphic novel, graphic memoir, hybrid work.

In addition to the approximately ten pages of brief assignments you’ll turn in during the ten weeks of the course yourself, you’ll turn in a total of 10 pages of revision on Friday of exam week, demonstrating your improved grasp of the principles of the course and the deepened command of your craft and art.

GE Requirements:
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0

ENGL 384 A (A Term): The Craft of Prose

MTWTh 12:00pm - 1:40pm DEM 002

The novel is dead; long live the anti-novel, built from scraps.

I’m not interested in collage as the refuge of the compositionally disabled. I’m interested in collage as an evolution beyond narrative.

A great painting comes together, just barely (Picasso).

It may be that nowadays in order to move us, abstract pictures need if not humor then at least some admission of their own absurdity-expressed in genuine awkwardness or in an authentic disorder (Adam Gopnik).

These fragments I have shored against my ruins (TS Eliot).

Collage is the primary art form of the twenty-first century (Donald Barthelme).

A course in literary collage/bricolage/assemblage/montage. We’ll read all or parts of some of the works below; throughout the quarter, students will create their own 15-page collage, which they will turn in by the end of the quarter and which we will discuss in class.

Jo Ann Beard, “The Fourth State of Matter”

Eula Biss, The Ballonists

Anne Carson, “Just for the Thrill”

Terry Castle, “My Heroin Xmas”

E.M. Cioran, The Temptation to Exist

Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain

Annie Ernaux, Things Seen

Amy Fusselman, The Pharmacist’s Mate

Mary Gaitskill, “Lost Cat”

Kenneth Goldsmith, Seven American Deaths and Disasters

Mira Gonzalez/Tao Lin, Selected Tweets

Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing

Brad Listi, Board

Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness

David Markson, This Is Not a Novel

Leonard Michaels, “Journal”

Maggie Nelson, Bluets

Don Patterson, Best Thought, Worst Thought

Alphonse Daudet, In the Land of Pain

James Richardson, Vectors

George WS Trow, Within the Context of No Context

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (introduction)

Joe Wenderoth, Letters to Wendy’s

Kate Zambreno, Toilet Bowl

GE Requirements:

Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)

Credits: 5.0


David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). The film adaptation of I Think You're Totally Wrong: A Quarrel was released by First Pond Entertainment in 2017; forthcoming in June 2019 is Lynch: A History, a documentary film—about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as tools of resistance—that Shields produced, wrote, and directed. Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018; The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power was published in March 2019. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times MagazineHarper'sEsquireYale ReviewSalonSlateTin HouseA Public SpaceMcSweeney'sBelieverHuffington PostLos Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His books have been translated into two dozen languages.

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