In this Joyce Carol Oates Masterclass Review, we’ll talk about The Art of the short story By Joyce Carol Oates course and do a detailed analysis of his lessons.
Check our in-depth MasterClass review here:
Joyce Carol Oates Masterclass Review 2021
About Joyce Carol Oates MasterClass
Before moving forward, let me tell you a little about our very own author, Joyce Carol Oates who is an American writer and has published her first book in 1963 and also since has published several novels, as well as a number of plays and novellas, and many volumes of short stories, poetry, and nonfiction.
She has written the famous novels Black Water, What I Lived For, Blonde, and short story collections The Wheel of Love and Lovely, Dark, Deep: Stories, and many more.
Oates taught at Princeton University and Professor Emerita in the Humanities with the Program in Creative Writing. She is a visiting professor at the University of California, Berkeley where she teaches short fiction. The way of explaining and talking to her is incredibly amazing.
Carol Oates Masterclass: Course in Detail
The next section is “Where the Stories come from”. It has 3 sub- videos of an average of 13 minutes each, making it a 40-minute long section. In this section, Joyce focuses on how self-expression is a great motive to all writing. She herself has kept a journal since she was 21 and has found it helpful not only for self-expression and self-knowledge but for observation of the world around her.
Scheduling your writing time is important, but it’s also a worthwhile practice to write at odd and spontaneous hours when your mind and mood are altered. Joyce encourages you to do assignments quickly and give yourself no more than 40 minutes to write.
A limited time frame gives you the freedom to not fuss over your work and to write into the rush of creativity. She also says that many writers have found physical activity to be a way to both activate new ideas and facilitate the creative processing that physicality and distance create.
She also recommends making a check-list, like she has for a very long time and you tick off the ones you have used- —on the kind of furniture, objects, and other things that might populate this world.
She says we tell the stories that we believe need to be told, stories that are dear or essential to our hearts. Joyce still draws inspiration from childhood books. When it comes to Carroll in particular, the combination of darkness and whimsy was especially appealing, and these literary interests can be felt in Joyce’s own work.
Interviewing people, be it a family member or anyone helps you draw a lot of inspiration. But when drawing content and inspiration from real people, writers need to take care to protect their subjects.
The following section is “Reading as Springboard for Writing”. It has just 2 sub-videos of 15 and 10 minutes respectively. Here we do the study of her story, ” Where are you going, Where Have You Been?”, which is Joyce’s most famous story. Joyce describes it as the tale of a young girl who is approached by
a prince on a horse while walking in the forest, only the prince is Death in disguise. The girl voluntarily gets on the horse and rides alongside Death to her own demise.
Here she also tells about choosing a point of view. Giving an example from this story she has put up her point extremely well.
It’s a natural inclination to overwrite your first draft—even Joyce had this experience with “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”.
“Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” is a story about one girl’s transcendence of life and death rather than the murder itself: The moment that Connie leaves the house, she transcends her own small, adolescent world and enters into a minimal space between life and death, the literal and the allegorical.
This is what interested Joyce as the writer. After rereading and better understanding her own intentions with her story, Joyce chose to end “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?” at the moment that Connie leaves the house and approaches the car rather than the moment she dies.
Joyce feels there are two kinds of reading, each important in its own right:
First is spontaneous reading which is when an individual finds a book by chance perhaps they see its cover in a bookstore or are intrigued by a review online and reads it. In spontaneous reading, readers are plunged into a world they didn’t plan for and couldn’t expect, and the outcome is often a personal emotional reaction:
Second is systematic reading, which is the process of thoughtfully choosing your reading material. It often involves the kind of material and reading schedule that one might find on a syllabus.
The next and the last section is “The Writer’s Workshop”, where there are 3 sub videos of almost 120 minutes each, making it an hour long section.
Read “Indian Camp,” and as you do, take some notes on the qualities that make this Hemingway story a classic, according to Joyce. These elements span the story’s style, pacing, economy, and omission, what is implicit versus explicit, the economy of characters, character names, relationships, and the mysterious ending.
It’s this last quality—the more hanging, mysterious ending indicative of Hemingway’s short fiction—that Joyce thinks makes the prose feel very contemporary.
Notice how the vocabulary is fairly limited, which makes sense considering that Hemingway’s protagonist, Nick, is a boy of only eight or nine years old.
The last two paragraphs of “Indian Camp” are carefully written, full of sensory details and descriptions.
Hemingway saw literature as an iceberg: A story is like an iceberg poking out of the water, its peak visible to the sailor. Most of the iceberg, however, remains out of sight. Hemingway’s short stories, says Joyce, have a “dark, enigmatic” quality to them. What you see on the page is the iceberg’s peak, but the rest of the “iceberg”— that is to say, the story’s deeper meaning—is lurking beneath the surface.
Moving ahead in this section Joyce says, one of the most helpful things that an outside reader can bring to your work is clarity. A third party can shed light on the blind spots you have in your own work: You may be clear on which character is speaking, but it may not be clear to the reader. Outside readers don’t know your intention, so you can look at workshops as an opportunity to receive clarity on whether your work is coming across the way you intended it to.
When reading another writer’s work, gently pointing out areas where the momentum slows or reader interest is lost is particularly helpful.
As you begin to read others’ work and give feedback, remain constructive and kind. Similarly, be deliberate with how, why, and with whom you open up your own fiction to critique in its earlier, more vulnerable stages.
She also advises to download and read “Near Death” by Corey Arnold in the Resources section and read it through. As we take a critical look at “Near Death,” remember that in a workshop environment, everything is understood to be a work in progress.
“Near Death” revolves around a youth group and deals with faith, visions, and the body. “Near Death” is a wonderful example of “breaking workshop rules” to great effect.
And as the course concludes, there is a 4-minute parting video.
Wherever your writing career takes you, always respect and cultivate your imagination.
For Joyce, this means sitting at a window that looks out onto nature. Joyce doesn’t write looking at an air shaft or a parking lot. To motivate her and stimulate her imagination, she needs a reminder of the natural world outside.
“One of the main things to remember…is that writing should be pleasurable, it should be fun, it should be exploratory. You should be writing about things that surprise you,” says Joyce. Figure out what surprises you every day and what makes your imagination wander. It may seem hokey or youthful, but it’s part of the writing process that deserves more care than it gets. Do whatever it takes to cultivate your sense of wonder and surprise.
As you continue pursuing a career as a writer, be gentle with yourself. Expect nothing other than the pleasure of writing and, potentially one day, the honor of connecting with an audience. Greatness doesn’t come quickly, and beautiful narratives aren’t written in a week. Allow yourself to explore. Expect to come to know yourself and the world around you a bit better, to see the past and future in a more exciting way. That is the pleasure of writing.
With that, the course ends on an extremely positive and motivating tone.
Who Should be doing it?
The course is absolutely incredible for every aspiring writer who wants to begin somewhere. There are times when you know you wish to write, but do not know how to start, here’s an option. And when you attend it you know how to at least start. Joyce gives numerous assignments and explains everything in such a simplified way that you wish to start at that very moment.
Even if you already write, it gives great teaching as to how to improve your writings and the way you express yourself in order to make it appealing to your readers.
She gives ideas on how to start, you get a lot of topics and also how to cater to the needs of your readers. If you feel that you write well but it’s not working out, this a great Course for you to attend.
Every aspiring and existing writer this is your chance to make the most of it. Right from the school going children to adults in their 50’s, everyone can write. Express your thoughts and you are good to go.
About the Workbook
The course workbook is very detailed and if you miss out on any small detail in the course, you will find it there. All the assignments are given with a proper explanation and it is easy to go through and jot them down.
The workbook is very helpful as almost the entire course is covered and the aesthetics of the book are beautiful. IT makes the reader want to go through it. It makes it a very simplified version of the entire course and encourages us to solve it. In case, you have missed something out while taking the course the workbook is the perfect support to understand.
One particular assignment that caught my eye was, to write beginning with the statement, “An unsolved mystery is a thorn in the heart”. Out of the box! I couldn’t stop thinking about it for a very long time.
And all the other assignments were very much interesting and captivating.
It is the perfect opportunity for all the aspiring writers to learn and grow
The course has a simplified way of teaching with a lot of examples and research and case studies.
Joyce puts forth crisp and clear points, by giving anecdotes from the past.
She also gives examples from real-life incidents.
Joyce being so experienced, is the perfect person to teach it as she has mastered the knack of writing.
She gives problems along with their solutions which makes the learner more interested in the course.
Having experience of more than 60 years, she has a wide knowledge of the topic. And she doesn’t only have the knowledge but she knows how to teach and make the learner understand
The course is perfectly divided into the sections which bring out the most of what all can be taught under that heading.
Joyce gives out her secrets to writing and is very compassionate when she talks.
Her experience with students is so much that when she talks to the learner it is evident that she can teach so well.
The course is perfectly divided into sub videos not making it too long or too short as it is completely theoretical.
The use of pages from the books to demonstrate the reading for case studies was a great way to keep the learners glued to the course.
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Conclusion: Carol Oates Masterclass Review 2021
In my opinion, if you take my final verdict this Masterclass is worth taking and giving it an honest shot. I myself have been completing the assignments given by Joyce and trying to make the best out of them. There will be times in this course that you will get bored and not enjoy it, but keep going.
There will be a time when you will be so engrossed that after a particular video is about to end, you will want it to keep going. The beauty of the course is that every person who remotely likes to read can also turn into a commendable writer. The way Joyce put forth all her experiences, explains all the case studies in detail, is absolutely commendable.
Oates way of expressing made me so interested that I tried to complete the course as fast as I could.
Her statement “Art is the highest expression of the human spirit” caught my attention and exactly summed up the entire course.
The course is absolutely inspiring and gives a kick start to our thought processes.
Ultimately, though, the most surprising part of the writing process will be you. You have the ability to shock, surprise, and delight yourself every day if you allow your imagination to take the wheel. Writing is a “spiritual manifestation” of something— many things—deep within us. This could be a secret shame, or an ancestral story never told, or an experience that’s absurd and humorous. It could even be a memory that you haven’t yet accessed.
The course was indeed thought-provoking and I would recommend it to everyone who sees themselves as a writer or at least did at some point in time in life. It’s a life-changing experience and once you attend it, I’m pretty sure you would be able to brush your writing skills for sure!