Creative Writing: Advanced Fiction: The Ecstasy of Influence

English 4510
The Ecstasy of Influence
Section 1
Phong Nguyen

What is the appropriate stance for a contemporary writer to take vis-à-vis her influences? According to Harold Bloom, the “main traditions” of literature entail “a history of anxiety and self-saving caricature of distortion, of perverse, willful revisionism.” In other words, it is an ongoing agon between the writers of the present and the past. But, invoking the postmodern tendency towards repurposing, appropriation, and play, Jonathan Lethem asks, “might we be better off ratifying the ecstasy of influence—and deepening our willingness to understand the commonality and timelessness of the methods and motifs available to artists?” In this course we will learn to embrace our individual influences—literary, popular, and otherwise—in order to enable self-discovery as writers. We will read four recently published short story collections, as well as Questlove's new book Creative Quest. But the main texts in this course will be the writing produced by you and your fellow students.