Picador Seminars by Oksana Marafioti in the Winter Term 2020/21

As part of her tenure in the winter term of 2020/21, Picador Professor Oksana Marafioti will teach two classes at American Studies Leipzig.

Immigration, Ethnicity, and Citzienship in the American Short Story

Tuesdays, 5 pm-7 pm (taught remotely)

This course explores American literature and culture through what has been called our uniquely national art form, the short story, and its connection to questions of immigration, ethnicity, and citizenship. Writer Ann Patchett likens reading short stories to the experience of a swarm of bees, “blocking out sound and sun and becoming the only thing you can think about.” We’ll be doing a lot of thinking about the short story—as a literary art form, as a social and historical record, and as a reflection of the cultural values that shape our ideas of who we are. From the ghosts and fantasies that haunted the nineteenth-century short story to the casual cruelties and everyday redemptions in twentieth century stories to today’s experimental fictions, the short story represents diverse visions of American identity and experience. We will thus roam widely to construct methods for thinking about and a critical vocabulary for discussing and writing about the short story. Students will examine the genre, learning about its formal structures and strategies, as well as its place among various historical literary movements, including realism, naturalism, modernism, and postmodernism. Special attention will be paid to the material conditions of short story writing and publishing—the 19th century rise of the literary magazine, the Little Magazines and anthology collections of the 20th century, and the possibilities for the short story in today’s digital environment. We will read individual stories from a wide range of American authors as well as a contemporary short story collection. We will discuss a variety of topics with special focus on questions of identity, race and ethnicity as well as issues of belonging and citizenship. Written assignments may include the formal essay, concise close-readings, critical reviews, and reflections.

This seminar is part of the MA module “Immigration, Ethnicity, and Citizenship.”


Creative Writing: From First Page to Last

Wednesdays, 5pm-7pm (taught remotely)

This comprehensive course is designed to advance the craft of writing fiction. It will be conducted in a studio-style setting, meaning that honing our writing skills will be our primary focus. We will develop an in-depth understanding of the elements writers master in order to create and, most importantly, complete their projects, and we will apply those concepts to our own material. Lessons will include plot, outlining strategies, narrative, dialogue, tension, pacing, conflict, world-building, character development, scene-building, voice, style, descriptive techniques, and editing skills. Accordingly, during lectures, we will discuss the structural/stylistic choices found in literary and genre works by recognized authors. During workshops, the class will share and discuss their own work. By the end of the course, each student will have a portfolio comprised of exercises, drafts, and at least one polished short story. There is no required textbook. Instead, we will use a combination of materials developed by me and also those found in syllabi of Margaret Atwood, Linda Barry, Joyce Carol Oates, and Neil Gaiman.

This class, formally comprising a 45-minute seminar followed by a 45-minute tutorial, forms the BA Professional Skills Module “Creative Writing: Imagining America” (5 credits). More information on this module is available here.