ENGL 284 A: Beginning Short Story Writing

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 9:40am - 11:20am
RAI 107
Headshot of David Shields
David Shields

Syllabus Description:

ENGL 284 A (A Term) -  M - Th   9:40--11:20    RAI 107 

Instructor:  David Shields    dshields@davidshields.com

A sustained argument for the excitement and urgency of brevity; a rally for compression, concision, and velocity; and a meditation on the brevity of human existence.

We are mortal beings. There is no evidence yet of god. We live in a hyperdigitalized culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules.

Students will read Life Is Short; Art Is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity and do the prompts suggested by the book (we’ll do as many of them as we can).

Read the whole book on your own, page by page, including the commentaries by Elizabeth Cooperman and me (we are the book’s co-editors). In class, students and I will discuss individual chapters as time allows. It’s crucial that you read the book on your own, chapter by chapter as we go and/or all the way through.

In class, students will read aloud their work and critique one another’s work. That is the core focus of the course. Students will learn the virtue of brevity, the key principles of literary composition in general (for novels, short stories, essays, etc.), and the many gestures available to the contemporary writer.

This is not a course in fiction or nonfiction per se. This is a course in prose composition. In how to write. You can write whatever you want: prose-poem, personal essay, fiction, graphic novel, graphic memoir, hybrid work.

In addition to the approximately ten pages of brief assignments you’ll turn in during the ten weeks of the course yourself, you’ll turn in a total of 10 pages of revision on Friday of exam week, demonstrating your improved grasp of the principles of the course and your deepened command of your craft and art.



David Shields is the internationally bestselling author of twenty-two books, including Reality Hunger (named one of the best books of 2010 by more than thirty publications), The Thing About Life Is That One Day You'll Be Dead (New York Times bestseller), Black Planet (finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Other People: Takes & Mistakes (NYTBR Editors’ Choice). The film adaptation of I Think You're Totally Wrong: A Quarrel was released by First Pond Entertainment in 2017; forthcoming in 2019 is Lynch: A History, a documentary film—about Marshawn Lynch’s use of silence, echo, and mimicry as tools of resistance—that Shields produced, wrote, and directed. Nobody Hates Trump More Than Trump: An Intervention was published in 2018; The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power is forthcoming in March 2019. A recipient of Guggenheim and NEA fellowships and a senior contributing editor of Conjunctions, Shields has published fiction and nonfiction in the New York Times Magazine, Harper's, Esquire, Yale Review, Salon, Slate, Tin House, A Public Space, McSweeney's, Believer, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Review of Books, and Best American Essays. His books have been translated into two dozen languages.


Catalog Description: 
Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 10:10pm