|Here are some important things to keep in mind in using the course
For each of the authors we take up, our editors have provided a brief biographical sketch, which they put just before the story by that author that they include in their anthology. (When there is more than one story by a given author, the biographical sketch will be found just before the first story included.) Make it a habit to read this sketch before you jump into the story.
For the stories in the first 10 chapters, the editors provide quite good questions for each story they feature in their discussion of the elements of fiction. Make it a habit not to look at these until you have read through the story once. But also make it a habit to consider these questions carefully after your first reading. For each question,
5 Sept (W): (1) Study what our editors have to say on the general topic of Point of View (pp. 22-27. (2) Read William Faulkner's story "A Rose for Emily" (pp. 28-35). (Don't forget to read the introductory headnote on the author.) As you read, be asking yourself where the narrator of this story would fit within the classification scheme laid out on p. 23 of our text. What factors might have helped determine Faulkner's decision to present the story from this point of view? (3) Re-read the story a couple of times, at different sittings, in the light of the editors' questions on p. 35. Questions 2 and 3 are the ones that are most obviously connected with the topic of the chapter within which the editors have decided to take up this story. But can you see how each of the others, in the end, come out of, or lead into, a consideration of what is at stake in an author's choice of point of view? (4) In reflecting on the story's plot, would you say that Faulkner's initial hook on the reader is by dramatic question, or by dramtic situation? (5) Over the weekend, visit the class Message Board, where you will find some questions based on these posted as discussion-starters. Take a stab at responding to one of these questions. Return to the Message Board periodically and see if you can work in a comment or two to other people's remarks.
7 Sept (F): (1) Read Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart." (pp. 35-39). (2) Review it carefully in the light of the questions on p.39. Try to collect your thoughts, based on these, around this issue: what important implications or effects at work in this story would be eliminated or impaired if Poe had told the story from the point of view of an omniscient narrator, or from the point of view of a clinical psychologist acquainted with the protagonist's case? (3) Work through the discussion, in our glossary of critical concepts, of dramatic monologue. What exactly is the situation in which the protagonist undertakes to address "us"? What then do we take to be the setting in which "we" find ourselves here? That is, where are we, who might we be, and how might we have come to be present so that we could be accosted and addressed in this fashion? (What implicit fictional role, in other words, does the story invite us to assume?) What does the speaker want from us? Why? Does he get it? (4) Visit the class Message Board and see if a discussion develops on some of these issues. Consider starting one, or taking part in one that has already begun.
10 Sept (M): (1) Read James Baldwin's story "Sonny's Blues" (pp. 39-62). (2) This is a quite rich and challenging story. After you've read it, let it percolate in your head for at least a few hours. Then give it a second reading in the light of our editors' questions on p. 62. During your second reading, be alert for clues that might suggest an answer to Question #3. (3) When you are done, have a look at Baldwin's remarks on the topic of "Race and the African-American Writer" (pp. 73-75).
12 Sept (W): (1) Read Eudora Welty's story "Why I Live at the P.O." (pp. 63-72). (2) After a reflective rest, re-read the story in light of the questions our editors have posed on p.72. Can you see how Questions #1 and #2 relate to each other? (How does the answer to Question #2 bear on the answer to Question #1?) (3) Work through our glossary article on First-Person Narrator and (4) on Point of View -- Omniscient, Objective, and Reliable Narration. (5) Looking back on the following stories, can you specify the point of view of each of them in terms of the classification system offered by our editors on pp. 22-27? (Is the "voice" telling the story that of a participant narrator or of a non-participant? If participant, is the narrator a central or a marginal character? Is he or she reliable as a narrator or unreliable? If reliable, what is the evidence? If unreliable, in what way, to what degree, and on what evidence? If the story comes to us via a non-participant narrator, is it omniscient and, if so, to what extent? Or is it objective (in our editors' sense of the term)? Does it editorialize on occasion, or does it refrain from editorializing?)
|* "The Moral Principle and the Material Interest"||* "A Rose for Emily"|
|* "Godfather Death"||* "The Tell-Tale Heart"|
|* "The Story of an Hour"||* "Sonny's Blues"|
|* "A&P"||* "Why I Live at the P.O."|
(4) Be thinking about what you have turned up in reviewing these stories in light of the above agenda of curiosity as you work your way through our editors' concluding remarks on "How Point of View Shapes a Story" (p[. 75).
14 Sept (F): Deadline for submission of Essay #1 is 5:00 p.m. today (if in hard copy) or midnight (if by electronic submission).. The topic options and guidelines for this requirement are available here. In class today we will entertain questions you may have about the concepts at stake in the topic options and about relevant points of interpretation of the various stories available to be written upon. (*) Come to class having read our glossary article on Point of View ("in a story" vs. "of a person"). (This is a distinction you definitely don't want to be confused about in your essay!)
Sept 17 (M): (1) Work through our editors' observations on the general topic of character (pp. 77-80), supplementing it with (2) what is said in our glossary on the topic of the distinction between dynamic and static characterization. (3) Let's now pause a while and take stock of what we've worked through so far, in light of these discussions. In particular you want to get clear on the difference between the flat/round distinction and the static/dynamic distinction. And you don't want to be able merely to spot the one or the other: you want to take make what you notice the basis for a further question: so what? How is this decision the right one for the purposes of the story at hand (supposing it is?) Further: supposing this is exactly the right sort of characterization, for this particular figure, in this particular story, does noticing exactly how it is right sharpen our sense of why the story was brought into being and put before us? (Of course, we are at liberty to judge that the author made an inappropriate choice, so that the story is in conflict with itself as to what is is trying to do.)
19 Sept (W): (1) Read Katherine Anne Porter's story "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" (pp. 80-87). (2) Reread it carefully (at least a couple of hours later!) in light of our editors' questions on p. 87. (What questions are you supposed to be asking about these questions themselves? If you've forgotten, you'll find the answer here.) (3) Use the reflections you've generated on the basis of those questions to decide, concerning both Granny and Cornelia, whether Porter has decided on flat or round characterization and on static or dynamic characterization. (4) What form of plot does the characterization of the protagonist yield here? (Keep in mind that there might be more than one respect in which a character might be put to the test, and that it might be possible to meet some of these while failing others! We might have to introduce some complexities into our use of the scheme developed earlier.) Might it make sense to consider this story as an instance of initiation story?
21 Sept (F): (1) There is a quite detailed Study Guide for Porter's story. Over the weekend, work through it carefully, rereading the story at least once again. (The study guide was originally designed for for three readings, and you've already accomplished a couple of these. You'll therefore already have answers to some of the questions you'll encounter here. There is also a writing assignment linked to from this study guide. You are not to do the writing assignment, but you should think it through carefully, because it lays out some agendas of curiosity that the story calls up. Remember: being able to tune into what the story asks us to asks is a key mark of a skillful reader, a reader who can catch on from the story's way of behaving what sort of game it is that the story is inviting the reader to play. (2) What point of view does Porter decide on for conveying this story? Where does it shift into and out of stream of consciousness? Do we see interior monologue on some occasions? What considerations must have played a role in Porter's decision to adopt this particular "window on events"? (3) Over the weekend, pay some visits to the Message Board for discussion of important aspects of this story.
24 Sept (M): (1) Read Alice Walker's story "Everyday Use" (pp. 88-95). (2) Work through the questions our editors have provided on p. 95, re-reading parts of the story as necessary. (3) Work through the discussion on our web glossary of Foil and Point of View. How thoroughly does Walker exploit the device of foil in the characterization of the two sisters? (What differences do you notice, for example, in the two sorts of "everyday use" Maggie and Dee would make of the quilts? How does this enrich our appreciation of the foil relationship between the two characters themselves?) (4) A good discussion should develop on the class Message Board over the issues raised by this story, and how the story implicitly raises them. (5) The prep sheet for the Mid-Term Exam will be posted around noon today (Central US Time).
26 Sept (W): (1) There is a detailed Study Guide to Walker's "Everyday Use." Work through it, rereading the story carefully at least once again. (You will already have answers to some of the questions you'll encounter here. Don't do the writing assignment linked to from this study guide, but, as you did with the WA on Porter's story, see what you can figure out about the mentality that formulated these questions: what background assumptions and standing curiosities must have been at work?) (2) Work through the material in our Character and Characterization. Use this to solidify your grasp of what our editors have pointed out in their introductory discussion (pp. 77-80).
28 Sept (F): (1) Read Isaac Bashevis Singer's "Gimpel the Fool" (pp. 79-89). (2) Reread it carefully in the light of the editors' questions on p. 89. (3) Only then should you read Singer's remarks (in an interview) on Gimpel's character (pp. 89-90). (4) There is a Study Guide on this story. Work through it, but don't do the writing assignment it links to. (A writing assignment formulates an agenda of curiosity. But your job here should be to try to reconstruct agenda of curiosity that must have produced the writing assignment itself.) (5) The issues the story raises, and the ways it goes about raising them, should make for a good discussion on the Message Board. (6) Consider carefully the editors' summary points on "How Character Creates Action" (pp. 107-108). (You are not to do the Writing Assignment on p. 108.) Reviewing the short stories we've read so far (by Chopin, Updike, Faulkner, Poe, Carver, Mansfield, Porter, Walker and Singer), do you find that their main point is borne out? During the next week, we will read 3 more stories. Be sure to determine whether their thesis holds for these as well. Use them to rehearse the procedure for approaching character, and plot through character, that the editors lay out in this valuable section.
1 Oct (M): [The Prep Sheet for the Mid-Term Exam will be posted today by noon CST.] (1) Read the editors' introductory remarks on the ways setting can function in short stories (pp. 109-111). Don't forget item (6) of the assignment for 28 Sept! (2) Read Chopin's story "The Storm" (pp. 112-116). (3) Work through our questions the editors pose on p. 116, re-reading the story in the light of them. (How does the answer to Question #4 turn on our appreciation of what Question #6 is driving at?)
3 Oct (W): (1) Read Jack London's story "To Build a Fire" (pp. 117-128). Don't forget item (6) of the assignment for 28 September. (2) Reread the story in the light of our editors' questions on p. 128.
5 Oct (F): (1) Take in the editors' parting remarks on "How Time and Place Set a Story" (pp. 152-53). (2) In the light of these, read T. Coraghessan Boyle's story "Greasy Lake" (pp. 129-136). (Don't forget the bio, beginning on the preceding page.) (3) Re-read the story in the light of the editors' questions on p. 136. Note that 3 and 5 are about particular ways in which the story exploits foils. (And these are not directly foils concerning characters.)
8 Oct (M): Mid-Term Examination. Be sure you have studied the Prep Sheet posted last week!
10 Oct (W): (1)
Review our editors' remarks on "What Is the Plot?"
(pp. 20-21), "How Point of View Shapes a Story" (pp. 75), "How Character
Creates Action" (pp.107-108), and "How Time and Place Set a Story" (pp. 152-53).
(2) Read Amy Tan's story "A Pair of
Tickets" (pp. 136-151), making a special
effort to bring to bear on it from the outset the various curiosities
the editors are recommending in those sections. (3)
Read the biographical sketch of the author (pp. 136-137) and Tan's own
remarks on "Setting the Voice" (pp. 151-152). (4)
story in light of these, and of the editors' questions on p. 152.
Return to the Course Home Page (English 320: The Short Story).
Return to Course Schedule 1, for earlier assignments covered by the Mid-Term Exam.
Go to Course Schedule 3, for assignments
between the Mid-Term and Final Exam.
Suggestions are welcome. Please send your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Contents copyright © 2001 by Lyman A. Baker.
Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.This page last updated 03 October 2001.