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Syllabus

This is Tao Lin’s syllabus for his class at Sarah Lawrence. This blog has no affiliation with either Tao Lin nor Sarah Lawrence. It is a free alternative, open to anyone willing to take part. The original syllabus is listed here.

In this class, we will read, discuss, and closely study stories that are: (1) between 2,000 and 12,000 words; (2) labeled fiction; and (3) published after 1960. We will think about how each story makes us feel and what thoughts we have at what moments in each story. We will try to determine exactly why (due to which sentences, words, images, connections and due to what from our own lives, prejudices, likes/dislikes) we feel or think what we think about each story. We will discern techniques (general, author-specific, story-specific), structures, types of titles, and types of endings (special attention to the beginnings and endings of stories) and maintain a public website listing our notes on each story, creating a kind of database of terms. We will think about why each story was written, what message or emotion or mood the author wanted to convey, explore, memorialize, organize. We will read interviews with and essays by short-story writers, introductions and reviews of short-story anthologies, and articles criticizing or defending contemporary short-story trends. We will read one or two short stories by the following: Amy Hempel, Curtis Sittenfeld, Lorrie Moore, Joy Williams, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Bobbie Ann Mason, Kevin Brockmeier, Trinie Dalton, David Foster Wallace, Rebecca Curtis, Deb Olin Unferth, Lydia Davis, Diane Williams, James Purdy, Todd Hasak-Lowy, Denis Johnson, Haruki Murakami, George Saunders, Donald Barthelme, A. M. Homes, Stephen Dixon, Lore Segal, Arthur Bradford, Sherman Alexie, Charles Johnson, and others.

For the purposes of this blog, our six week program looks like this, tentativley:

8/27 Amy Hempel “Today Will be a Quiet Day

9/2 Curtis Sittenfeld “Volunteers are Shining Stars

9/9 Lorrie Moore “You’re Ugly, Too

9/16 Joy Williams “The Excursion” (not online)

9/23 Frederick Bartheleme “Driver

9/30 Ann Beattie “The Rabbit Hole as Likely Explanation

10/7 Bobbie Ann Mason “Graveyard Day” (not online)

10/14 Kevin Brockmeier “The Ceiling

10/21 Trinie Dalton “Escape Mushroom Style

10/28 David Foster Wallace “Incarnations of Burned Children

11/4 Rebecca Curtis “The Wolf at the Door

11/11 Deb Olin Unferth “Minor Robberies

11/18 Lydia Davis Five Stories

11/25 Diane Williams these stories

12/2 James Purdy “Short Papa” (not online)

12/9 Todd Hasak-Lowy “The End of Larry’s Wallet” (not online)

12/30 Haruki Murakami “The Second Bakery Attack

1/6 George Saunders “Puppy

1/13 Donald Barthelme “The Phantom of the Opera’s Friend

1/20 A.M. Homes “A Real Doll

1/27 Stephen Dixon “Wife in Reverse

2/3 Lore Segal “Other People’s Death

2/10 Arthur Bradford “Lost Limbs

2/17 Sherman Alexie “This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

2/24 Charles Johnson “Night Watch, 500 BCE

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