How People Change: The Short Story and Life’s Transitions

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 show 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, and then discussed in small groups. We will 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 the whole. Guest speakers will be invited, both psychiatrists and authors. Dr. William Tucker will talk about Erik Erikson’s eight stages of psychosocial development. 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 online.




Wednesdays, 1:30-4:20 PM


Sheila Kohler