The Art of Short Story Reading (55+)

Short fiction, a relatively new art form developed at the end of the 19th century, is a difficult genre that allows the writer only a small space to recreate the fullness and wonder of life. What makes a story tick? What means does an author use to elicit our laughter or tears? By carefully examining stories penned by diverse writers from different parts of the world, we’ll gain some insights.

Writers whose art and biographies we’ll discuss include Mavis Gallant, Alice Munro, Ingeborg Bachmann, Guy de Maupassant, Gustave Flaubert and others.

Note: Back by popular demand, from fall 2018. This course involves required reading.

Please note that enrollment in this course is reserved for adults 55+.

Currently not available for registration.

What will I learn?

Week 1: Ancient Israel

One of the greatest collections of short stories in world literature was written as early as the late-8th or 7th century BCE by anonymous authors from ancient Israel. The Book of Judges presents a swift and deft narrative, with vivid characters sketched in a sentence or two. We examine the Samson cycle (Judges 13-16) in the Hebrew Bible.

Weeks 2-3: 19th- and 20th-Century France

We leap to the 19th century, when a short story became a separate literary genre. Flaubert and his disciple, Maupassant, the unsurpassed masters of short narrative, provide us with insights into the nature and art of their writing. We read A Simple Heart and Letters to Louise Colet (Flaubert), The Piece of String, Miss Harriet (Maupassant) and The Adulterous Wife (Camus).

Week 4: 20th-Century Italy, Austria and U.S.A

We analyze The Mother (Natalia Ginsburg), Everything (Ingeborg Bachman) and Gimpel the Fool (Isaac Bashevis Singer).

Week 5: 20th-Century U.S.A. and Canada

We examine Returning (Magda Czewolska) and The Third and Final Continent (Jhumpa Lahiri).

Week 6: 20th- and 21st-Century Canada

We interpret The Chosen Husband (Mavis Gallant) and The Office (Alice Munro).

How will I learn?

  • Lectures
  • Discussions
  • Readings
  • Papers (applicable only to certificate students)

How will I be evaluated?

For certificate students only:

Your instructor will evaluate you based on an essay, which you will complete at the end of the course. You will receive a grade of “satisfactory” or “unsatisfactory.”

Textbooks and learning materials

There is required reading for this course. Reading material will be available in class. Some course materials may be available online.

If you're 55+, you may take this course as part of

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