Master Class - Writers, and particularly young writers, are often drawn to using their own lives as source material for their stories. Often, they create characters who appear to be alter egos or stand-ins for themselves. Commonly, such stories are filed under the category of "autobiographical fiction." But how does one effectively use one's own self and one's own life experience in a work of fiction? What methods and approaches do writers use to keep their stories from being merely self-involved and self-reflexive? And, at a conceptual level, what can a writer achieve by creating a character who begs to be confused with him or herself? What formal games do writers play when they invite readers to identify a character so closely with his or her author? In this master class, we will be looking variously at novels, story collections, and story cycles where the protagonist can be easily confused with his/her author. Some of the stories will be written in the first person, some in the third, but all will participate in this quality of the "elusive I"--the seductive and disjunctive quality where the author functions as the protagonist in his or her own work of fiction.
February 14: Enormous Changes At The Last Minute by Grace Paley (recommended: The Collected Stories of Grace Paley)
February 21: The Red Cavalry Stories by Isaac Babel; 1920 Diary by Isaac Babel (recommended: The Complete Works of Isaac Babel, which contains the Diary and The Red Cavalry Stories)
February 28: Ours by Sergei Dovlatov (out of print, a photocopy will be provided)
March 7: Summertime by J.M. Coetzee