English 438: CREATIVE WRITING WORKSHOP – SHORT FICTION
Spring Semester, 2008
Tues., 3-6 pm
Prof. David R. Gruber
Office Hrs.: Tues 11am-2pm, Fri 1-3, schedule as needed
TEXT: The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, 7th, Bausch & Cassill
COURSE OBJECTIVES: The goal of this course is to introduce students to the reading
and writing of contemporary short fiction. Students will study selected stories primarily
from the modern and contemporary periods and attempt to explore how the short
narrative works to convey various identities, states of mind, moments, sense perceptions,
etc. Since the course focuses on fiction in a workshop environment, students should be
prepared to come to class engaged and ready for vibrant discussion with their peers.
Students will be expected to write their own original short fiction stories and critique
their peers’ work. Additionally, students will develop critical responses to modern and
contemporary short stories.
Three overall goals for the semester will be: 1) to understand the narrative structure of a
contemporary short story in order to increase understanding and enjoyment. 2) to study
how distinctive styles have been shaped and re-shaped in reference to modernism and
postmodernism. 3) to explore how the Christian faith informs our conceptualization of
story and our individual crafting of short fiction.
COURSE PROCEDURE: This course is generally organized by chronology. In the first
few weeks, we will try to examine the short story by looking at its origins and
understanding its evolution in the American cultural context. We will discuss the nature
of the short story and learn how to pay attention to the story’s movements. In the
following weeks of the course, we will explore several styles of short fiction writing,
represented by the major figures. Along the way, we will write and learn from doing.
COURSE REQUIREMENTS: One essay will be required. The essay will be an analytical
essay discussing one particular story in order to see how its narrative progression
advances an underlying cultural theme.
Also, there will be four literary arts quizzes that test your knowledge of the in-class
discussions and the readings.
Finally, I expect you to write your own original short fiction and share it with the class.
You will be asked to write four polished stories throughout the course of the semester
(although you may also write during in-class exercises), and you will be critiqued by your
peers four times. At the end of the course, you will do a final story reading where you
will read one of your re-written stories to the class but will not receive workshop
treatment. NOTE: You will need to keep a journal folder containing all of the stories that
you write. I will expect you to turn in the completed journal folder on the last day of
class. Note: You will be graded on the effort that you put into your stories as well as on
the extent to which you re-write your story based on workshop notes.
Narrative Analysis Paper 10%
Quiz#1-4 10% each
Stories from workshop 10% each (4xs)
Overall Attendance 10%
ATTENDANCE: Absence Policy: There are no excuses or unexcused absences. Students
who miss up to 20% of the class may be dropped from that course, receiving no credit.
(That means that students who miss 3 classes will be dropped from the course.)
PUNCTUALITY: Early is great. On-time is good. Late is very bad. You will not be
allowed to enter the room during workshop times! Please do not interrupt a reading!
PARTICIPATION: There are many ways to participate in this class. It is my hope that
you will all want to participate. Feel free to ask questions, answer questions, and state
opinions. Note: Be sure to write down Gruber’s rules for work-shopping!
LATE WORK: If you know ahead of time that you are going to miss class, then turn in
your work early. Everyday that an assigned story/essay is due, I will expect to receive the
essay by the end of that class period. Except for emergencies, a late paper will drop a
letter grade each day that it is late. For example, one day late equals an automatic B, and
PLAGIARISM: This is a serious, punishable offense. Do not attempt to pass off someone
else’s work as your own. You will fail.
WORKSHOP DAY – NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
LITERARY ARTS QUIZ #1
PAPER #1 – NARRATIVE ANALYSIS ESSAY
Due: February 5th
WORKSHOP DAY – NARRATIVE RELIABILITY
LITERARY ARTS QUIZ #2
Due: February 26th
* SPRING RECESS MARCH 10th -16th
WORKSHOP DAY – IMAGE AS ENGINE and METAPHOR
LITERARY ARTS QUIZ #3
WORKSHOP DAY – EXPERIMENTAL NARRATIVE
FINAL RE-WRITTEN STORY READING
JOURNAL COLLECTION AND FINAL QUIZ
TOPICS TO BE COVERED:
What is short fiction?
What is a good story?
How do I develop story ideas?
What is Narrative Progression?
“Close Attention” to story elements
Is writing automatic, subconscious, or planned?
The Author’s Reliability
The Reader’s Skepticism
Story as a force
The Everyday Writers
The Magical Writers
Narrative and Technology