Reading and Writing: the Missing Person (LIT4138.01)

Kathleen Alcott

Traditionally, the fiction writer’s task has been to chart the space between inner and outer lives, illustrating for the reader how one operates on the other. But in the cases of certain fictive persons and their realities, is total access always the best way forward? In this craft seminar on experimental characterization, we will explore works in which the author defines the protagonist through limited or omissive means—whether those be the elision of thoughts, the exclusion of any personal history, the absence of environment or society, or otherwise—and come to understand how these choices can lead to meaningful alternative routes to the description of people, particularly those marginalized or “unseen” by society. We’ll supplement novels, short stories, and profiles with readings of surprising primary sources—such as letters, audio diaries, and psychiatric case studies—and complete intersecting craft exercises in occlusion and constraint. The class comprises readings by Herman Melville, Samuel Beckett, Muriel Spark, Marguerite Duras, James Baldwin, Kazuo Ishiguro, Antonio di Benedetto, Sophie Calle, and Rachel Cusk; intersecting exercises in authorial constraint; and a final fiction project in which students will focus on one of the discussed techniques. Corequisites: Students are required to attend Literature nights on Wednesdays at 7pm.

Prerequisites: Interested students should submit a writing sample to by Monday, November 19. Class lists will be posted outside the Literature office on Monday, November 26.
Credits: 4
T 2:10pm - 6:00pm
Maximum Enrollment: 15
Course Frequency:
This course is categorized as 4000, All courses, Areas of Study, Four Credit, Kathleen Alcott, Literature, Tuesday and/or Friday Afternoons.