My office: SH, 487C ● My phone: 303-871-2898 ● Class meets: Wed 6-9:50 pm in SH 496 ● My email: email@example.com ● My office hours: T W Th 4-5
NOTE: This graduate fiction workshop is OPEN ONLY to fiction writers in the Ph.D. program in the English Department.
ABOUT THE EXERCISES: I’ll ask you to write a handful of the exercises from The 3 AM Epiphany during the term. We will also discuss the book as a teaching device. Here are some new exercises for a follow-up book to The 3 AM Epiphany I’m writing.
ABOUT THE COURSE: Alphonso Lingis mixes travel
narrative and philosophy (and he is a very rare philosopher who uses
straightforward story (as opposed to purposely odd and playful story) to
explain and expand upon philosophy). He
practices something like philosophical travel essays, in which the travel is
inextricably linked with (or at least interrupted by) the philosophizing. In travel writing you walk or drive from one
meaning to the next. Lingis expands
dramatically on this simple method.
Stanley Cavell mixes discussion of film, literature, and philosophy,
with some beautiful discussion of Shakespeare, Henry James, and Fred
Astaire. Richard Sennett, a sociologist,
mixes an examination of work with a kind of practical or applied
philosophy. Philosophy and fiction
don’t go hand in hand, but the two can be fruitfully investigated
together. What is philosophy? Does Philosophy require narrative? Is great fiction necessarily philosophically
sophisticated? Are Melville, Stein,
Kafka, Joyce, Woolf, Beckett, or DeLillo slyly philosophers? Does one need to know a philosopher’s
biography to understand his or her philosophy (does it matter, for instance,
that J.L. Austin worked for MI6 during WWII)?
My father is a philosopher, and we’ve argued this last question a
great deal over the years. In this
class, we will discuss some basic philosophical problems and the recent history
of modern philosophy. Plato and
Aristotle talked quite a bit about philosophy and poetry; we’ll update
that a bit. In your fiction, I expect
you to interweave philosophical problems somehow into your layers of narrative
fabric. Years ago, when my father first
taught philosophy at
If you’re interested, Lingis is something of a phenomenologist and he spent his early career translating the great European philosophers Merleau-Ponty and Levinas. Cavell is an aesthetic philosopher, sometimes allied with the Angl0-American analytic philosophers, though he also seems to distance himself from them. Sennett is a historian of thought, as well as a sociologist (and he has written two novels). We’ll spend some time defining the terms of art of these disciplines.
ASSIGNMENTS: You are each responsible for two 300-word critiques of each others’ work—meaning, you’ll write a critique of everybody’s work twice (of the three or four sets of writing everyone is producing). Give me a copy of these critiques. Bring these critiques to class the day of the discussion of your classmates’ work.
I will also ask you to write a brief essay on one of these three texts (300-500 words), which we’ll discuss toward the end of the term.
BACKGROUND material on-line (you don’t have to read this stuff, but you might want to):
What is phenomenology? What is analytic philosophy? What are the differences between the two (also called Continental philosophy and linguistic philosophy)? Here is the entire text of How to Do Things with Words, by J.L. Austin, and Henry James’s stories “The Jolly Corner” and “The Birthplace” (click on “text (HTML)”), which are all central to the chapters we’ll be reading in Cavell.