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Disaffection & Dysfunction: Writing About Love and Family

ENGL 415.940

Contemporary writer and critic Janet Burroway has this to say about stories in Writing Fiction:"Only trouble is interesting." Her predecessor, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy, started his 1877 masterwork, Anna Karenina, with the following famous phrase: "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." In this writing workshop, we'll approach stories about familial and romantic relationships through the prism of "trouble"—and with an eye toward craft. What obstacles do these characters encounter? How do their conflicts get resolved? How can we play with structure and style to suit the stories we wish to tell? Students will write two works—either creative nonfiction and/or fiction—and typed critiques of each workshopped story. We'll also dissect the craft choices of thematically related work by John Cheever, Helen Simpson, David Sedaris, Antonya Nelson, and others.

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