Picador Seminars by Josh Weil in the Summer Term 2019

As part of his tenure in the summer term of 2019, Picador Professor Josh Weil will teach two classes at American Studies Leipzig.

Wide Horizon: The Role of the Western in American Literature

Tuesdays, 3-5pm, GWZ 3.5.15

Too often the American western is dismissed as a lesser form, derived from overly commercial concerns, dependent on cliched tropes. But these tropes are recognizable because they are central to American mythology—a mythology that, in turn, has been foundational to aspects of an American storytelling ethos. In part because of that, the genre has spawned seminal works of American literature. In this class, we’ll examine some of those works, from early non-fiction accounts of westward exploration, to pioneering literary novels, to later masterworks enshrined in the literary cannon, to contemporary experiments with expanding the tradition. What is that tradition? What makes a Western a Western? In what ways have the cornerstones of the genre affected the wider world of American—and international—literature? And how does it still retain relevance today? These are among the questions we’ll wrestle with as we explore the American literary western.

The reading list for this class includes Warlock by Oakley Hall, Close Range by Annie Proulx, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid by Michael Ondaatje, Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy, and The Portable Western Reader (edited by William Kittredge). Purchase of these books is recommended; they can also be purchased (or, in some cases, preordered) at the Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung.

The first class of this seminar will take place on April 9.

This seminar is part of the BA module “Literature and Culture III.”


Short Story Workshop

Wednesdays, 3-5pm, GWZ 3.5.15

This workshop will be based not only on student work, but on the premise that individual voice—what makes each student’s work her own—is where we should set our sights. That will be the lens through which we examine all the elements of craft, from plot structure to point of view, the shape of a scene to the wounds that shape a character. The mark of the individual: it’s what makes a story worth our telling it. Through close reading of each other’s work and close listening to those who critique our own we’ll learn to recognize the places where that mark is strongest, to hone it, to develop its shape. And through discussions of craft and observations of technique we’ll advance along the essential second step: how to communicate that vision most effectively to others. The core of the class will be student work—each writer will workshop their own stories and offer in-depth critiques of others’ writing—but we will also use each story as a springboard for discussion and debate about craft elements. Debate an approach to one of those elements, float an unexpected idea in a critique session, take a creative risk in writing a story: this is a class that will warmly encourage boldness, experimentation, casting wide and digging deep.

The class will make use of the book Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft by Janet Burroway, Elizabeth Stuckey-French, and Ned Stuckey-French in its tenth edition (to be released on March 25). Purchase is recommended; it can also be (pre)ordered at Connewitzer Verlagsbuchhandlung.

The first class of this workshop will take place on April 10.

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