How People change: Short Stories and Life’s Transitions (LA)

In this seminar we will study moments of change at seven crucial stages in the life cycle (childhood, adolescence, courtship and marriage, work, maturity, and death) in order to discover the conflicts and contradictions, the emotional truth, and the possibilities that such moments hold for us. Our medium will be the short story. Great short stories show us convincingly how change comes about, each one unique and yet ultimately universal. How do moments of revelation occur? What are these changes each of us must discover in a unique way? What pushes us? What shows us the way? Or, does it result from within?

Each class will begin with a discussion of an illustrative short story, followed by a writing exercise inspired by it, which will be done off-line, and then discussed in small groups in breakout rooms. We will all gather again to share what has been written by those who wish to. Each student will be encouraged to produce, and thus, discover, the imaginative and regenerative potential residing in her/his imagination. The writing submitted will be both shared with the class and discussed in one on one sessions with the professor. In a final paper each student will put their pieces together to reflect a whole, and wholly unique, life. During the semester several guest speakers will address the process of change: Dr. William Tucker will talk about Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development, Dr Peter Buckley will discuss courtship and marriage and Dr. Joseph Youngerman will talk about adolescence, Dr Maxine Antel will talk about maturity. A collection of most of the short stories we will read is available in “How People Change: the Short Story as Case History,” by William Tucker and all will be found on line.



FRS 147

Mondays + Wednesdays,
1:30-2:50 PM


Sheila Kohler