ENGL 284 A: Beginning Short Story Writing

Winter 2024
MW 1:30pm - 2:50pm / SAV 164
Section Type:
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):

Download the course syllabus here.

English 284A. Introduction to the Art of the Personal Essay. M/W, 1:30-2:50 p.m.

Savery 164 

University Book Store has the course’s required book: Life Is Short—Art Is Shorter: In Praise of Brevity (edited by Elizabeth Cooperman and me). https://www.ubookstore.com/adoption-search

The book’s focus: We are mortal beings. There is as yet no evidence of god. We live in a hyper-digital culture. Art is related to the body and to the culture. Art should reflect these things. Brevity rules. 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.

Students will read the book 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 and me. In class, students and I will discuss individual chapters as we have time. It’s crucial that you read the book on your own, chapter by chapter, as we go and/or all the way through.

Participation counts; it will affect your grade. However, please don’t comment just to comment. Try to contribute judiciously, effectively, thoughtfully, and generously.

Office hours: Fri, 3-5 p.m. Also available by appointment. Set up via email or by texting me (206.661.0933). We can talk in person or by phone or via Zoom.

My email and website: dshields@davidshields.com, www.davidshields.com. I go by “David.”

This is not a course in fiction or fantasy; it’s a course in the art of the personal essay.  In class, students will critique one another’s work. That is the core of the course. Students will learn the virtue of brevity, the key principles of literary composition in general, and the many gestures available to the contemporary personal essayist. Questions? Concerns? Requests? Suggestions?

Syllabus isn’t etched in concrete; I’ll adjust it as necessary.

Jan 3. First class. Introduction to course.

Jan 8. Read on  your own Intro, Object, Prose-Poem, and Image Becomes Metaphor sections from book. Bring book to every class. Bring laptop to every class. Due: Your own brief essay (~250 words) in which an object (or image) become a metaphor. We will discuss your essays in class.

Jan 10. Same.

Jan 15. No class. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Jan 17. Read on your own Lovers’ Quarrel and Happiness sections of book. Due: your own brief essay (~250 words) about a quarrel and the quasi-resolution of the quarrel. We will discuss your essays in class.

Jan 22. Same.

Jan 24. Same.

Jan 29. Read on your own Decades section of book. Due: your own brief decades essay (~250 words). We will discuss your decades essay in class.

Jan 31. Same.

Feb 5. Same.

Feb 7. Read on your own Collage section of book. Due: your own brief collage (~250 words). We will discuss your collage in class.

Feb 12.  Same.

Feb 14. Same.

Feb 19. No class. Presidents’ Day.

Feb 21. Read on your own Trick Story section of book. Due: your own trick essay—approximately 250 words. We will discuss your trick essay in class.

Feb 26. Same.

Feb 28. Same.

March 4. Read on your own Guilty Elegy section of book. Due: your own brief guilty elegy (~250 words).

March 6. Same.

March 15. Final portfolios due: revisions of all your assignments. Your revision grade can override the grade of your previous version. I.e., if your original version is 3.4 and your revision is 3.7, the grade for that assignment becomes 3.7. For your revisions, you can take twice as much space—500 words rather than 250 words.

Submit each assignment as GOOGLE DOC to this secure and private GOOGLE DRIVE FOLDER.

Students will embed comments/feedback on one another’s Google Docs; I’ll email my feedback to each of you.

Catalog Description:
Introduction to the theory and practice of writing the short story.
GE Requirements Met:
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated:
June 12, 2024 - 3:42 pm