Art of Fiction: Short Story travels through a series of works (generally around ten pages long) written from the early 19th century to the modern day. As is common at Simon’s Rock, each story is read outside of class then discussed in depth during the period. This discussion can be about an array of aspects, such as a technique the author used, a theme that interests you, or even just an element of the story that you couldn’t quite understand
I came into this class having already taken the “Art of Poetry” class with Peter Filkins, so I was already aware that we would be studying stories rather than writing them. However, I had never worked with Brendan Mathews before. To put it simply, he was lovely. As a friend once told me, Brendan is “one of the most qualified professors we’ve got.” He is a published and critically acclaimed author, and his courses demonstrate this. Brendan always came to class with new ideas and outside sources that truly helped me to understand the subject matter of the readings. He actively participated in conversation and responded to his students’ thoughts, but not to the point where they felt he was telling them off or interrogating them. I was also extremely impressed with his—um, how do I say this?—wokeness. He made sure to include stories from authors of all sexualities, genders, and races, and was also sensitive to mental health issues (pertaining to triggers, absences, and extensions). I enjoyed his teaching methods so much that I intend to take his second Art of Fiction course, Art of Fiction: Novel, next year (stay posted for the review in December).
If you want to succeed in Short Story, bring a snack. I know this sounds ridiculous, but Brendan does lecture every once in a while. These lectures are filled with rich information, are interesting, and do not seem remotely condescending, but they can be a little long for the average Simon’s Rock student, and—not gonna lie—I fell asleep a few times. If snacking isn’t your thing, have something to keep your hands busy. Brendan allows non-distracting crafts, so throughout the semester, we had our share (one girl knitted an entire blanket while another took up friendship bracelet making).
Warnings: As I said before, the lectures can get a little long, but Brendan teaches so well. However, he will call on you if you don’t speak. It’s never in an accusatory fashion (typically he just says, “[Name], what did you think of this story?”), but he expects you to have done your readings and to participate. It is a literature class, after all. Also, there is a MONSTER of a paper due at the end of the semester. It has a minimum of ten pages, which is pretty standard for a Lit final, but you need to read at least eight short stories by one author then write a critical introduction to the author. I’m finished it a few minutes before it was due and let me tell you, it was rough.
Elise is the Cad's Vice President and Director of Creative Publications.