New Perspectives: A World of Short Fiction


October 15, 2013

Abby Goode’s short-story course in the summer, “American Short Fiction”, began with Melville’s “Bartleby” and Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” and concluded with Anita Loos’s comedic novella “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”.

In her next class, she aims to shake things up by offering fresh perspectives and texts that challenge and reshape our ideas about a solid, canonical tradition of American short fiction.

In the wake of Alice Munro winning the 2013 Nobel Prize for Literature, there is no better time to experience the fresh perspective offered by Abby Goode’s latest short-story course. We visited with her to find out more about the class.

WIH Reporter: What is important for us to know about your class?

Goode: The class provides a fascinating introduction for anyone interested in the features and varieties of short fiction in the American literary tradition, from short stories to novellas. And for the avid short fiction reader, it provides unique texts, non-traditional approaches, and fresh perspectives to the American literary world we think we know. 

WIH Reporter: Will the work of male writers be featured also?

Goode: I will also briefly share some unique texts and adaptations of short fiction by grand-daddies of American literature such as Melville and Twain, but only to suggest that we can reconceive their work in powerful ways.

WIH Reporter: Did your summer class have any impact on this class?

Goode: Definitely. This four-week summer course enabled me to make critical decisions about how to plan lectures, discussions, and reading load for the more extended, in-depth upcoming course. We had many intriguing conversations that covered everything from Fitzgerald’s science fiction to gender roles in Faulkner’s tragic south.

WIH Reporter: What else can we look forward to in your course?

Goode: Not only will we encounter some of the most bizarre works of American short fiction, we will explore lesser-known stories, adaptations, genres, and themes that keep short fiction a dynamic and interesting field of study; digital technology, race relations, suspense, science fiction, representations of social class and mobility, gender, region and place, sustainability, family dynamics, and more.

WIH Reporter: How will the class be structured?

Goode: Each class time will take one of two formats: as either the exploration of a full-length novella–allowing us to explore its themes and language in-depth and tease out the major questions of the work–or a divided discussion of two shorter works that will provide some breadth of our knowledge of various authors, styles, and literary movements. Classes will be a combination of lecture and discussion, with a heavy emphasis on discussion that enables us to explore the major themes in the work, narrative strategies, language, and character development. We will perhaps hear challenging and conflicting interpretations of stories that shed new light on the literature and relate them to history and our own contemporary moment.

WIH Reporter: What informed your choices of authors you covered?

Goode: When I put together the description for the course months ago, I had not entirely finalized the reading list. Since then, I’ve asked the group from my summer American short fiction course and others at the Women’s Institute for ideas, and noted an interest in women’s fiction and fiction from the U.S. south.The majority of the class will be devoted to authors that I have not yet covered in a literature course at the Women’s Institute–Edith Wharton, Kate Chopin, Zora Neale Hurston, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Nella Larsen, Carsen McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, and Alice Munro (who has been called the best living writer of short stories in English)–so the course promises to be a unique experience.

For more information on Abby Goode’s class, “New Perspectives on American Short Fiction, which begins on 10-22-13, from 1:00 pm to 3;00 pm, click here.