Advanced Writing of Fiction: Fantasy and Autofiction

English 8510
Fantasy and Autofiction
Section 1
Trudy Lewis
3:30-6:00 p.m.


In a recent Guardian interview, novelist Rachel Cusk dismissed the traditional elements of fiction as “fake and embarrassing.”  She went on to claim, “I’m certain that autobiography is increasingly the only form in all the arts.”  With Cusk’s statement in mind, we will explore exemplary texts from the recent spate of autofiction to see what they can tell us about our cultural moment and the changing circumstances of our art.  What strategies do authors employ to portray the autobiographical self in the current era of branding, hyper-reality, reality hunger, and information overload? How do recent autofictions address or reject the traditional functions of autobiography? How does autofiction illuminate, expand, or undercut the concept of character? Student writers will have the opportunity to reconsider their own work in the light of genre, lived experience and historical context.  There is no need for workshop texts to fit into the category of autofiction. However, students will write a brief experiment addressing the semester's theme.  Texts include the following: “How to Write an Autobiographical Novel” and "The Autobiography of My Novel" by Alexander Chee, Freshwater by Akwaeke Emezi, Kudos by Rachel Cusk, My Struggle (Book I) by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Crudo by Olivia Lang, and Never Mind by Edward St Aubyn. Each student will workshop two stories and/or novel chapters and produce a literary essay and a five-page experiment.