Vonnegut's Shapes of Stories


As part of the 1997-98 USC Aiken Lecture Series, author Kurt Vonnegut spent a couple of days in Aiken, interacting with faculty, students, and members of the community. On September 23, he gave a free public presentation on the main stage of the Etherredge Center during which he used a chalkboard to trace the “very simple, beautiful shapes” of three classic storylines, which he identified as the “man-in-a-hole” plot, the "boy-meets-girl" plot, and the Cinderella plot.

His often humorous “lecture” was so well received that Chancellor Robert Alexander decided to preserve the chalkboard that Vonnegut used that night by encasing it in a large shadow box frame and offering the large-scale artifact (a little over four feet tall and six feet wide) to the Department of English. Dr. Tom Mack, Department Chair, happily accepted his generous gift and decided to house the framed board in the Writing Room on the first floor of the Humanities and Social Sciences Building.

A video of Kurt Vonnegut’s presentation follows.