Swiss Association of Teachers of English


Using (Contemporary) Novels and Short Stories in the Classroom

This 2-day workshop, which was organized by Hansueli Müller and Dewi Williams, was attended by 29 teachers and run by the young Irish writer Alan McMonagle, who has published two volumes of short stories (Psychotic Episodes and Liar, Liar) and a recent novel Ithaca, which was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Award for first novels . Participants were required to read Ithaca before the workshop and were also sent a file of material which included some short stories from his two collections. Just as Odysseus is determined to return home to Ithaca, the 11-year-old narrator of this darkly comic novel (set in a small town in central Ireland) is determined to find the father whom he has never known. The novel is both poignant and humorous and gave rise to some animated discussion. Alan dealt with themes such as the young narrator in fiction, the contrast between short stories and novels, the role of fantasy and myth, the importance of character and language, etc. He also read from some of his (often amusing) stories.  All in all, a stimulating and enjoyable workshop.