In the 18th Century, when the novel was still new and seeking greater plausibility as a literary form, many novelists chose to draw on the already-established (though mainly domestic) art of letter writing. The epistolary novel didn’t just debut; it was a hit. Today, it is worth reminding ourselves that some of our most influential and beloved works of fiction–Dracula, The Color Purple, Les Liasions Dangereuses–are told in letters. Short story writers, too, have experimented with letter narration, but while the multiplicities and ellisions native to the technique have only grown more modern, letter-writing itself has dwindled almost into anachronism. E-mail, social media, text messaging–might these digital forms of communication revive the significance of reading and writing in the silent spaces “between” lines of text? We will start by reading an example or two of the epistolary short story in order to discuss character, voice, style, and other narrative techniques. The instructor will then provide a generative prompt.
Justin Jannise is the author of to Be Better by Being Worse, which won the 2020 A. Poulin, Jr. Prize for Poetry and is forthcoming in April 2021 from BOA Editions, Ltd. Now a Ph.D. student at the University of Houston, Justin previously received recognition for his writing at both Yale University and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. In 2019, his poems appeared in both Best New Poets and Best of the Net, and Copper Nickel nominated his poem “Leather Jacket” fora Pushcart Prize. His writing has also been published by Hobart, Electric Lit, Lana Turner, Yale Review, New Ohio Review, and The Pinch Journal. A recipient of the Inprint Verlaine Prize in poetry, he is the former Editor-in-Chief of Gulf Coast.