Forms of Western Narrative

“Once upon a time…” This course tells a story about stories themselves—how and why they appear and endure across different eras and formats. We’ll consider a range of narratives, from classical through contemporary, and their genres and media, from oral performance through fairy tales, novels, short stories, film, and comics. Several questions will help guide us: What’s the point of narratives, anyway? What conventions do they establish? What subversions do they invite? And how and why do some of them get retold, refashioned, or repurposed? Topics likely covered include beginnings, narrators (reliable, unreliable, multiple, absent), plot, time (and time travel), media history, metanarrative, voice, childhood (and parenting), authorship, the role of the reader, and happy/unhappy endings. Readings by some or all of: Homer, Cervantes, the Grimm brothers, Mary Shelley (Frankenstein likely will be a central text), Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Franz Kafka, Mikhail Bulgakov, Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortazar, Jon Stone (The Monster at the End of This Book), Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, and Twitter fiction writers, as well as films such as The Usual Suspects, Groundhog Day, and The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.