This course seeks to prepare students for the study of literature in the context of the Creative Writing concentration. It seeks to address, through reading and analyzing texts, two questions that seem to be particularly important for undergraduate creative writing students. First is where do I get my ideas? Second is what do I want to write about? The reading sessions on the course seek to answer the first question, and the discussion/feedback sessions inbetween seek to help with the second question.
Every reading week, the reading pairs a short myth, folktale, or religious story with a more modern rendering of a similar subject. The whole course is tailored to thinking about where writers find their inspiration, and a large part of that is knowledge. Writing tutors will often tell you that the best thing that a writer can do is to read as much as they can. The course seeks to emphasize that point by allowing a class discussion of how writers have recycled ideas from older stories in order to create a work of art that is unique and subversive.
In the classes between these sessions, we will hold discussions on writing in particular genres, and there will be opportunities for you to emulate techniques used by writers in the reading, and receive feedback on your work. In these sessions, we will be working on discovering what the subject matter for your writing might be, and how your own work intersects with some of the great themes of literature.
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Under each heading on the pages that follow is the reading for each reading session. There is also a ‘Further Reading’ list, which is intended for your use if you want to go deeper into a particular area, and which you must use for your reading journal.
For the reading journal, I expect you to choose one of the “Further Reading” lists, and read four texts from that list. For your final portfolio, you will need to write 1000 words on how the chosen texts deal with a particular theme, and how the techniques used might have influenced your own approach. All of the books chosen on the lists are ones that have significantly influenced me in my own creative writing, and that might offer some fruitful and thought-provoking discussions. You will have opportunities in class and in office hours to discuss the reading.
Reading 1: Bluebeards and Relationships
Grimm’s ‘The Robber Bridegroom’ http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/grimm040.html and Angela Carter, ‘The Bloody Chamber’
Further Reading on Relationships
Baldwin, James. 1956. Giovanni’s Room. Dial Press.
Bronte, Emily. 1847. Wuthering Heights.
Carson, Anne. 2001. The Beauty of the Husband: A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos. Chopin, Kate. 1899. The Awakening.
Duras, Marguerite. 1984. The Lover.
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. 1925. The Great Gatsby.
Forster, E.M. 1908. A Room with a View.
Hall, Radclyffe. 1928. The Well of Loneliness.
Hughes, Ted. 1998. Birthday Letters.
Ishiguro, Kazuo. 1989. The Remains of the Day.
Lawrence, D.H. 1920. Women in Love.
Murakami, Haruki. 1987. Norwegian Wood.
Ondaatje, Michael. 1992. The English Patient.
Pasternak, Boris. 1957. Doctor Zhivago.
Sexton, Anne. 1971. Transformations.
Reading 2: Family Problems
‘The Wicked Stepmother’<http://www.pitt.edu/~dash/knowles127.html> and a selection of poems on family.
[Optional: Jhumpa Lahiri, ‘Year’s End’
Further Reading on Family
Allende, Isabel. 1982. House of the Spirits.
al-Shaykh, Hanan. 2010. The Locust and the Bird: my Mother’s Story.
Darznik, Jasmin. 2011. The Good Daughter: A Memoir of my Mother’s Hidden Life. Esquival, Laura. 1989. Like Water for Chocolate.
Faulkner, William. 1929 (1990). The Sound and the Fury.
Galsworthy, John. 1921 (2009). The Forsyte Saga.
Lee, Harper. 2015. Go Set a Watchamn.
Letts, Tracy. 2008. August, Osage County.
Mistry, Rohinton. 1995. A Fine Balance.
Olds, Sharon. 1992. The Father.
Petit, Pascale. 2001. The Zoo Father.
Roy, Arundhati. 1997. The God of Small Things.
Sage, Lorna. 2003. Bad Blood.
Seth, Vikram. 1993 (2005). A Suitable Boy.
Smith, Zadie. 2001. White Teeth.
Waugh, Evelyn. 1945 (1982). Brideshead Revisited.
Reading 3: Intimacy and Violence
Stories from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, a selection of poems, Sarah Kane’s Blasted.
I would also recommend watching the Richard Linklater film, Tape.
[I don’t normally give trigger warnings, because I can’t speak to what every person will
find disturbing, but I will say that Blasted is a play that I find upsetting and disquieting, but the point is to consider the limits of what can be staged. This is just to warn you.]
Further Reading on Violence
Alvi, Moniza. 2008. Europa.
Burnside, John. 1997. The Dumb House.
Coetzee, J.M. 1999. Disgrace.
Conrad, Joseph. 1899. Heart of Darkness. Danticat, Edwidge. 1994. Breath, Eyes, Memory. El-Saadawi, Nawal. 1975. Woman at Point Zero. Erdrich, Louise. 2012. The Round House.
Fenton, Elyse. 2007. Clamor.
Gaines, Ernest. 1993. A Lesson Before Dying. Hardy, Thomas. 1891. Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Hosseini, Khaled. 2003. The Kite Runner.
Joseph, Rajiv. 2010. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. McDonagh, Martin. 2005. The Pillowman.
Moore, Alan. 1999. From Hell.
Morrison, Toni. 1987. Beloved.
Rankine, Claudia. 2014. Citizen.
Walker, Alice. 1982. The Color Purple.
Reading 4: Failure and Identity
‘The Fisher King’ discussion – listen online <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008p0nv>, extracts from T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land, and John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer’ < https://loa- shared.s3.amazonaws.com/static/pdf/Cheever_Swimmer.pdf>.
Further Reading on Identity
Amis, Martin. 1984. Money.
Berryman, John. 1969. Dream Songs.
Camus, Albert. 1942. The Stranger.
Chatwin, Bruce. On the Black Hill.
Herman, Michelle. 1990. Missing.
Kafka, Franz. 1915. The Metamorphosis.
Joyce, James. 1916. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Larsen, Nella. 1929. Passing.
Lowell, Robert. 1959. Life Studies.
Rhys, Jean. 1937. Good Morning Midnight. Toibin, Colm. 2009. Brooklyn.
Woolf, Virginia. 1928. Orlando.
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Reading 5: Masculinities and the “Adventure”
Extracts from Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf and Nick Lawrence’s ‘Gatlinburg.’
Further Reading on “Adventures”
Allende, Isabel. 1999. Daughter of Fortune.
Bowles, Paul. 1949. The Sheltering Sky.
Brown, Rita Mae. 1973. Ruby Fruit Jungle.
Conan-Doyle, Arthur. 1901. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Dumas, Alexandre. 1844-45. The Count of Monte Cristo. Grey, Zane. 1912. Riders of the Purple Sage.
Golding, William. 1956. Pincher Martin.
Portis, Charles. 1968. True Grit.
Martel, Yann. 2001. Life of Pi.
Rushdie, Salman. 1981. Midnight’s Children.
Stephenson, R.L. 1893. Kidnapped.
Winterson, Jeanette. 1998. The Passion.
Waters, Sarah. 2002. Fingersmith.
Reading 6: Despair and Mortality
Hans Christian Anderson, ‘The Little Match Girl’ <http://www.andersen.sdu.dk/vaerk/hersholt/TheLittleMatchGirl_e.html> and Conrad Aiken, ‘Silent Snow, Secret Snow’ < http://www.vqronline.org/fiction/silent- snow-secret-snow>.
Further Reading on Death and Failure
Coetzee, J.M. 1980. Waiting for the Barbarians.
Du Maurier, Daphne. 1938. Rebecca.
Edson, Margaret. 1999. Wit.
Hemingway, Ernest. 1940. For Whom the Bell Tolls. Irving, John. 1989. A Prayer for Owen Meany. Ishiguro, Kazuo. 2005. Never Let Me Go. McCarthy, Cormac. 2006. The Road.
McEwan, Ian. 2001. Atonement.
Orwell, George. 1949. 1984.
Rilke, Rainer Maria. 1923. Duino Elegies.
Sartre, Jean-Paul. 1938. Nausea.
Shanley, John Patrick. 2013. Doubt: A Parable. Stoker, Bram. 1897. Dracula.
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