From Humbert Humbert to Dorian Gray to Oscar Wao, literature has long embraced complicated, unique, even unpleasant male characters. The ladies are now increasingly getting their turn, as contemporary literary fiction books headline female protagonists who don’t try to earn our affection. This class will examine two complicated women in two exemplary novels: Orchid & the Wasp by Caoilinn Hughes and If You Leave Me by Crystal Hana Kim.
Historical novelists all bend the past to suit their narratives, but writers differ on their approach to the historical record. The first class will consider Ariel Lawhon’s ingeniously structured I Was Anastasia, which hews closely to the facts yet still spins a provocative story. In the second class we will discuss Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, which asks readers to take another look at the traditionally villainous Thomas Cromwell. Finally, we’ll explore Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad and its imaginative approach to the 19th century escape network. Throughout, we will discuss what responsibilities writers have to both contemporary readers and the past, and examine the tools writers use to make history believable. Three Thursdays: August 15, 22, 29, from 6- 8 p.m.