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MFA Course Descriptions

IMF 53717
Selected Emphases in Fiction X:
Sports in Literature: Play, Conflict, and the Shape of Narrative

Instructor: Gene Pfeiffer

Class Type: Literature & Craft

Course Description:

Are League of Legends, Dota, and Counter Strike sports? What is a sport? Some would say that only physical competition – like baseball, football, hockey, soccer and basketball – can be classified as sport. Others disagree. This course takes a wider view: more solitary activities like fishing and hunting make the grade, and so do sit-down competitions like chess, poker, Go and video games (the tournaments of which are now covered by the media just like classic sporting events).

Whatever the sport in a story, it can offer a depth to character, as well as fresh language, form and setting to an author. Sports and games provide living examples of great timing, grace and form. Players can experience the highest moments of tension, courage and impact--all qualities of action we look for in our writing. Players also must cope with adversity, overcome obstacles, deal with conflict, and constantly act and react to changing situations. Their skill, strength speed and intelligence serve them in their endeavors. And when they fail, they often are offered redemption through second chances. For these reasons, sports and games lend themselves to story development and character study.

In this course we will hit and run on modern and contemporary literature from early 20th baseball and fly fishing to early 21st century gaming, and even some speculative sporting fiction from the future. We’ll read stories of a pivotal 1951 Dodgers-Giants game (while in a global game, the Russians test the bomb), a town’s bet on a junior ice hockey team, a suburbanite swimming across his neighborhood, and gamers searching for Easter eggs. (Authors included: Don DeLillo, John Cheever, Fredrik Backman, Lee K. Abbott, Joyce Carol Oates and Annie Proulx.)

We’ll schedule weekly writing exercises to stimulate your own work no matter what your sport, and the team will take a swing at workshopping a short piece by each player. The coach will help you finish strong with a few winning pieces to send out for publication.






Lindenwood University
209 S. Kingshighway
St. Charles, MO 63301