Assignment: Edit an Anthology of contemporary pieces

Students choose, represent, and defend a unifying aesthetic principle

Many professional writers have edited anthologies. For students, compiling and editing an anthology of contemporary fiction, poetry, or CNF can be an opportunity to discover their personal fiction aesthetic.

Assignment Description Handout
Anthology Assignment.docx
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Assignment Description

Before searching for pieces, students should choose a unifying aesthetic principle for their anthology. What basic premise, theme, topic, or aesthetic will define their anthology?


Anything can be a unifying principle: the Iraq war, anxiety, obesity, the Florida environment, nostalgia, sunrises, the panopticon, unreliable narrators, AI narrators, marriage, transitions, magic realism, et cetera. What is important is that the student choose something meaningful to them that they can explain and defend.


Once they have chosen a unifying principle, they have to find 12 pieces (short fiction, poetry, or CNF) that fit the principle. This might mean checking out editions of yearly collections like The Best American Short Stories, O’Henry Prize Winners, or Pushcart Prize Winners and attentively skimming them for relevant work.


There is one restriction: pieces can be from any genre and about any subject matter. However, this is a contemporary anthology assignment so each piece must all have been published within the last 15 years.


After they have identified 12 pieces, students assemble a book comprised of:

  1. A cover page with a title for the anthology
  2. A table of contents page that includes where the story originally appeared in print. The order is important and should not be random.
  3. An introduction -- an essay of 3-4 pages that explains how the pieces reflect a aesthetic sensibility, worldview, theme, et cetera. What unites them and what separates them?
  4. The twelve pieces

Finally, the student assembles the cover page, table of contents, introduction, and twelve works into a single pdf.

Contemporary work is key to this assignment

The goal of this assignment is to make a student choose, represent, and defend a literary aesthetic as a way to get them to discover their own artistic values. This is only possible if the student is limited to contemporary work (10-15 years).


If allowed to choose works from any decade, they won't explore new material. They'll choose the path of least resistance, and assemble twelve works they read in other classes. You will get a lot of collections with "The Lottery," "The Yellow Wallpaper"" and Edgar Allen Poe.


In other words, this can easily be an easy-A bullshit assignment if the student does not have to really work to find the pieces and they won't learn anything.