[A new semester is upon us, so this week I’ll preview texts I’m excited to teach in my Spring 2022 classes. Leading up to a weekend update on my book project in progress!]
On three stimulating pairings from my accelerated online Short Story syllabus.
1) “Girl” and “I Stand Here Ironing”: We start our seven-week semester with this pair of stories about mothers and daughters, multi-generational continuities and changes, social expectations and pressures, and where and how we place our sympathies as readers (the topic for their weekly response post on whichever story they choose to analyze). I’ve used this pairing in at least a dozen sections over the last decade, and continue to get different responses and ideas from students, which is about as positive a recommendation for these stories’ quality as you could ever find.
2) “Boys Go to Jupiter” and “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”: Danielle Evans’ story is one of my favorites of all time, as that hyperlinked post (among many others) indicates. It’s about many important things, including race and racism to be sure; but fundamentally it’s a portrait of a teenage girl struggling with the many different kinds of pressures and forces that are part of her 21st century life and world. That makes it a very provocative pairing with Joyce Carol Oates’ famous 1960s depiction of those issues and themes in my course’s second week, and my prompt asking students to analyze one of these protagonists always produces thoughtful and compelling work.
3) “Chapter Two” and “Sonny’s Blues”: At the end of our seven weeks we come to this pair of long, challenging, stunning stories about addiction, family and community, and the lies and truths we tell to and about ourselves. This is the only weekly post where I ask students to analyze both stories (in preparation for their similarly comparative final paper), and one particularly striking topic for such comparisons is the very different ways Antonya Nelson and James Baldwin use the literary elements of narration and perspective to frame those similar themes. A great reminder of the nuanced work all of our authors do to create these amazing stories!
Special update post this weekend,
PS. What do you think? Spring courses or other work you want to share?