|Here are some important things to keep in mind in using the course
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,
29 Jan (M): (1) Read Edgar Allan Poe's story "The Tell-Tale Heart." (pp. 34-37). (2) Review it carefully in the light of the questions on p.37. 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.
31 Jan (W): (1) Read Raymond Carver's story "Cathedral" (pp.38-49). (2) Think it over carefully in light of the questions on p.49. 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 impared if Carver had told the story from the point of view of a limited omniscient narrator with direct access to the protagonist's thoughts and feelings, but not identified with the protagonist himself? (2) Does this story initially engage us with a dramatic question, or with a dramatic situation, i.e., not speaking in the protagonist's own voice? (3) What about this story makes us recognize it as an instance of an initiation story? (4) In respect of plot structure, where does the story finish with exposition? (What seems to qualify as the precipitating event, that sets the rising action under way?) (5) The plot of this story turns on an epiphany. Where do you locate the epiphantic moment? What questions does it seem designed to get the reader curious about?(6) 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.
1 Feb (F): (1) Read Katherine Mansfield's story "Miss Brill" (pp.49-53). (2) This is probably the most difficult of all the stories we've read so far for students to "take to." You won't be alone if your initial reaction is that the story is boring. But consider that many of the most accomplished writers of fiction in the 20th century have regarded Mansfield as one of their most important inspirations, and look upon her work (and this famous story in particular) with profound respect. Why might this be? Keep this in mind as you work through our editors' questions on p.53. (3) Keep it in mind, too, as you consider the excerpt from Mansfield's letter to Richard Murry (p.53). What does she indicate was her overriding concern in working up this story? (What "told her" whether she had this or that particular feature of the story "right"? What does this have to do with our editors' stress on what in general tends to distinquish short stories, for all their variety, as a genre (p.11)? If the story didn't initially "work" for you, why might that have been? (4) Take to heart our editors' concluding remarks on "How Point of View Shapes a Story" (pp.53). This is something that from here on out you want to make a part of your standing approach to any story. (Incidentally, have you incorporated the editors' parting words on the subject of plot into your habitual practice [pp.18-19], or was that something you let evaporate?) 8).
3 Feb (): Live Lecture #1 is scheduled for today, 11:00am-12:30pm Central Standard Time. Try to login around 15 minutes earlier. We should anticipate that some of you will experience technical difficulties at the outset, so we'll need to be patient at the beginning while we try to iron these out.. The Tech Staff at DCE will be standing by, so if you have any troubles, do not hesitate to send an e-mail message to email@example.com with a copy to me (firstname.lastname@example.org). You can also contact the Help Desk by phone. Call (785) 532-0198 or 1-800-865-6143. First though, you might want to consult the answers to Frequently Asked Questions that the Tech Staff has posted. It would be a good idea to review these a day or so in advance. I've also put some tips on my own page on Live Lectures.
5 Feb (M): Deadline for submission of Essay #1 is midnight tonight (in the time zone of the address from which you have registered for the course). The topic options and guidelines for this requirement are available here. Submit your essay directly to me (no proctors) electronically, by one of the methods described here.
7 Feb (W): (1) Work through our editors' observations on the general topic of character (pp.60-63), 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.)
9 Feb (F): (1) Read Katherine Anne Porter's story "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" (pp. 63-70). (2) Reread it carefully (at least a couple of hours later!) in light of our editors' questions on p. 70. (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?
12 Feb (M): (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.
14 Feb (W): (1) Read Alice Walker's story "Everyday Use" (pp. 71-78). (2) Work through the questions our editors have provided on p. 78, 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).
16 Feb (F): (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.
19 Feb (M): (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. 90-91). 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.
21 Feb (W): [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. 92-94). Don't forget item (6) of the assignment for 2 October! (2) Read Chopin's story "The Storm" (pp. 95-99). (3) Work through our questions the editors pose on p. 99, re-reading the story in the light of them. (How does the answer to Queston 4 turn on our appreciation of what Question 6 is driving at?) (*) Habit check: when you read Singer's story, did you make sure to read the biographical sketch that precedes it, even though it is on the page preceding the one on which the story begins, and reading it was not listed as a separate item of the assignment?
23 Feb (F): (1) Read Jack London's story "To Build a Fire" (pp. 100-111). Don't forget item (6) of the assignment for 2 October. (2) Reread the story in the light of our editors' questions on p. 111.
26 Feb (M): (1) Take in the editors' parting remarks on "Whow Time and Place Set a Stroy" (pp. 135-36). (2) In the light of these, read T. Coraghessan Boyle's story "Greasy Lake" (pp. 112-119). (Don't forget the bio, preceding page.) (3) Re-read the story in the light of the editors' questions on p. 119. Note that 3 and 5 are about particular ways in which the story exploits foils. (And these are not directly foils concerning characters.)
Mid-Term Examination Period.You may take your Mid-Term Examination at any time on any of the following days this week, provided that your proctor is able to mail your answers back to the KSU Division of Education postmarked no later than Friday of this week: The prep sheet was posted on Wednesday of last week.
2 Mar (F): Review our editors' remarks on "What Is the Plot?" (pp. 18-19), "How Point of View Shapes a Story" (pp. 53-54), "How Character Creates Action" (pp. 90-91), and "How Time and Place Set a Story" (pp. 136-35). (2) Read Amy Tan's story "A Pair of Tickets," making a special effort to bring to bear on it from the outset the various curiosities the editors are recommending in those sections. (3) Re-read Tan's story in light of the editors' questions on p. 135.
- 27 Feb (T)
- 28 Feb (W)
- 1 Mar (Th)
- 2 Mar (F)
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