Sophomore Seminars

Family Trees: The Intergenerational Novel


We are familiar with novels that feature a single protagonist, but what happens when the protagonist is an entire family? How do novelists create page-turning stories that span decades instead of days? In this seminar, we will read novels by three writers who do just this, while writing a chapter of what may one day be our own multigenerational novels. We will delve into our family stories and histories, and consider the benefits and drawbacks of conducting research for a work of fiction. In doing so, we will wrestle with the challenges that confront all novelists, whether their novels are multigenerational or not: the balance between veracity and the imagination; the risks and benefits of writing about people who really existed; and the work that goes into conceiving of and creating an ambitious work of art.

Meet the Instructor(s)

Austin Smith

"I am a Jones Lecturer in the Creative Writing Program, where I teach courses in poetry, fiction, nature writing and documentary journalism. In my teaching, and in my own writing projects, I am most interested in issues related to environmental thought and social justice. I also make a point of utilizing the incredible resources we have at hand here at Stanford, from taking my poetry classes to Cantor Arts Center, to taking my nature writing classes on field trips to the coast. I began teaching at Stanford in 2013."