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Rutgers to have award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates teach class in Spring 2020

Joyce Carol Oates will teach students to analyze popular short stories and critique them.
Photo by WikimediaJoyce Carol Oates will teach students to analyze popular short stories and critique them.

Joyce Carol Oates, an American author who has won the National Book Award and the National Humanities Medal, will be joining the English Department at Rutgers University—New Brunswick as a visiting distinguished professor for the Spring 2020 semester, according to an article on the School of Arts and Sciences website. 

Oates will be teaching an advanced class in which students will analyze short stories and novels written by established writers and then edit and critique them, according to the article. 

“I am very much looking forward to working with Rutgers writers,” Oates said.

Spanning a writing career of more than 50 years, Oates has published plays, poetry, criticisms and novels such as "With Shuddering Fall," "Black Water" and the short story “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?"

Oates’s most recent short story, “Sinners in the Hands of An Angry God,” was published in The New Yorker, according to the article. 

“Joyce is a legendary figure in American letters, famous not only for her moving, deeply intelligent novels but for the great range of her interests, her ability to leap effortlessly from one genre to another and her extraordinary work ethic,” said Mark Doty, a distinguished professor in the English Department and director of Writers House. “Imagine being an undergraduate fiction writer, and knowing that you could seek advice from a woman who has published 58 novels.”

Rebecca Walkowitz, a distinguished professor in the English Department and department chair, also said she is happy to have Oates on as a faculty member, according to the article. 

“Professor Oates is renowned not only for her own prize-winning fiction but also for the accomplished and in some cases prize-winning fiction she has inspired in her students,” Walkowitz said. “We are delighted that our creative writing students and faculty will have the benefit of her gifts and expertise.”

Oates’s class will analyze short stories from "The Oxford Book of American Short Stories," among other writings, according to the article. 

“A typical assignment would be to compare and contrast an early story by Ernest Hemingway with a story by a contemporary writer who has been influenced by Hemingway, like Amy Hempel,” Oates said.

Lectures will emphasize constructive criticism and editing, as students will practice line editing as performed at magazines and publishing houses, according to the article. 

“The pretense is that we are all editors at a distinguished magazine and our responsibility is to prepare a story for publication by seeking ways to improve it,” Oates said.

The English Department has seen a rise in enrollment in creative writing courses, which also features prize-winning poets Doty and Evie Shockley as well as critic David Orr, according to the article. 

“In a large university like this one, writing workshops are an important source of community, as well as a place where every student is seen and heard,” Doty said, according to the article. “Bringing a writer like Joyce Carol Oates to teach for a semester is a real demonstration of Rutgers’ commitment to creative writing, and how strongly we believe in this vital part of our work.”