Writing About Literature

Writing About Literature

When the short-story writer Alice Munro won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature, she expressed her “hope [that] this would make people see the short story as an important art, not just something you played around with until you got a novel.” In this class, we’ll take Munro at her word and read a variety of short stories by writers including Alice Munro, Sandra Cisneros, Raymond Carver, Tim O’Brien, Jhumpa Lahiri, and Junot Diaz. Of course reading stories for the sheer pleasure of reading them is one thing; thinking about what they might mean is another; expressing those thoughts in writing is a third matter. In this class, we’ll be doing all three. Our goal will be to increase enjoyment in reading and in understanding, as well as to feel more confident in the ability to express oneself effectively, efficiently, and gracefully.

 

Do you like to mark up your books? Then you are writing about literature. This class will explore what writing about literature is like for authors themselves. From marginalia in the Talmud to adaptations like Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, writers mark up, borrow from, and rewrite other people’s stories, often reflecting in innovative ways on the creative process. Examples might include:

  • Spike Lee adapting Aristophanes in his film Chi-Raq
  • Alison Bechdel revising Oscar Wilde in her graphic novel Fun Home
  • William Shakespeare lifting Arthur Brooke’s verse narrative to write Romeo and Juliet
  • Mary Shelley reshaping her literary “dark materials” to make Frankenstein
  • Herman Melville turning a travel book into Gothic horror in Benito Cereno

Assignments and group projects allow students to explore the writing process in all its messy, creative stages. Writing in margins strongly encouraged.