Wednesdays, January 22- February 26, 2020
7:00-9:00 p.m. (six sessions)
Guide: Danielle Frandina
In this seminar, we will explore the works of award-winning contemporary writers Leslie Marmon Silko, Annie Proulx, and Claire Vaye Watkins and how they confront, disrupt, challenge, and complicate the dominant narrative of the West. Leslie Marmon Silko’s now classic novel Ceremony weaves desert landscape and tribal origin stories into a tale of a returning war veteran’s trauma and healing. In Close Range: The Wyoming Stories, the first of three short story collections unified by setting, Annie Proulx tells the hard luck tales of Wyoming’s inhabitants in her exacting prose. The stories are merciless, yet beautifully rendered, the antithesis of a romanticized cowboy tale. Claire Vaye Watkins rounds out the seminar with her stunning debut short story collection Battleborn, set in the Mojave Desert and Death Valley regions of the California-Nevada border.
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Close Range: The Wyoming Stories by Annie Proulx
Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins
FOR THE FIRST ASSIGNMENT, PLEASE READ:
- Ceremony, p. 1-100 (if your pagination is different than my copy, this is the very beginning through a scene where Tayo and Night Swan spend time alone together. The last line of the section is “Good-bye, Tayo. Thank you for bringing the message.”
- “The Half-Skinned Deer” in Close Range: Wyoming Stories 21-40 (in my copy)
- “Ghosts and Cowboys” in Battleborn, p. 1-23 (in my copy)
Here are two series of questions your guide will pose to initiate your first discussion, so you might be looking through these lenses (among others) as you read:
- How is the land the characters inhabit presented? How big of a force is the land in the story? How do characters interact with their physical landscapes? How does the writer create a sense of place in the story?
- How does this story find its place in the tradition of Western (as in the American West) writing? Is it refuting the dominant narratives of the West? How so? Is it playing with the tropes and motifs of the Western writing tradition? Does it de-romanticize landscapes or people formerly romanticized by earlier Western writers? In what ways is the story in dialogue with all the stories within this broad genre that came before it?
Danielle Frandina is an educator, writer, and editor who earned her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts and taught at the Jewish Community High School of the Bay, where she chaired the school’s humanities department. Danielle is the founder, curator, and host of the Portland reading series Tell It Slant. Her stories and essays can be found in Numero Cinq, Avalon Magazine, Conceptions Southwest and 1001.