ENGL789 - Form and Theory in Fiction Re-imagining and Retelling

In this class we will be reading and discussing novels and stories that deliberately and overtly derive their structure, plot, characters and concerns from older literary works. We’ll be examining texts which have a variety of relationships to their predecessors, including “parallel novels” where a minor character or incident is taken as the main concern of a new story, “fractured stories” which use some elements of the original but remix them into a new form with new results, and stories that reset an earlier narrative in a later social milieu. We’ll begin the semester by reading pairings of texts where the correspondence between early/late is clearly emphasized. Then we’ll move towards an examination of the more diffuse influence that earlier stories can have on later works by examining a series of diverse later works all of which use the Odyssey as an important touchstone for their own development.
Throughout the semester, we’ll be seeking lessons for our own creative processes from our reading. How do writers find and use influence of their predecessors to create their own work? What are some recognizable strategies for appropriating material from older texts? What relationships do we find between progenitor and inheritor? How does this derivation enrich newer texts? Might it ever detract from them? How does the re-written story cause us to reflect on the earlier version?