English 320:  The Short Story


There will be 300 points possible to be earned in the course, distributed as follows:


2 interpretive essays, each worth 25 points

Mid-Term and Final Examinations, each worth 100 points

Credit for continuous participation, 50 points

Final course grades will be assigned according to the following scale, which indicates the lower cut-off score for grades A through D:
A =  270 points (90% of the 300 total points possible)
B =  240 points (80% of the total points possible)
C =  180 points (60% of the total points possible)
D =  150 points (50% the total points possible)
F =  below 150 points (under 50% of the total possible points)
Let's look at each of the point categories more closely.

Two-thirds of your grade will be determined by the two required examinations.

Format of the exams.  In each answer, whether shorter or longer, you will be expected to show familiarity with certain critical concepts and, of course, with the work under discussion.  In the Mid-Term, I will be looking to see whether you can undertake an appropriate sequence of moves in answering a specific question I pose about the work.  In the Final, I will begin looking to see whether you can formulate for yourself an appropriate agenda of curiosity, and carry it through in an appropriate way. In each case, you will be required to discuss at least one work that we have not focused on in class. (Being able to deal appropriately with material concerning which you have not been provided with a direct model is the "acid test" of whether you have internalized an appropriate battery of readerly moves.)  What I mean here by an "agenda of curiosity" and "appropriate sequence of readerly moves" is something it is the business of the course to communicate.

Remember:  for the in-class (short-answer) part of each exam, you will be provided a prep sheet, which will be posted approximately a week before the exam is due.  Here you will find more specific information about how the particular exam in question will satisfy the description you have just read.  Meanwhile, the topic options for the at-home essay part of the exam will be posted approximately one week before the Friday on which they are due.  There is, meanwhile, a succinct and a detailed statement of the criteria that will be used to evaluate answers on exams (as well as essays).


In addition, to the required examinations, each student will submit a pair of short essays, each worth 25 points. Together they amount to one-sixth of the basis of your final course grade.

These essays are expected to be longer than the answers you write under the time pressure of the examinations.  (You should aim for around 500 words, which is roughly equivalent to a single-spaced page with 1-inch margins in 12-point font.  More is welcome, of course, provided that it is non-repetitive and on-point.)   This greater length is supposed to be in the service of greater detail and depth of analysis.  Accordingly, you will have several days to reflect on the issues involved and to compose your analysis.

Deadlines for these assignments are noted, respectively, in Part 2 and Part 3 of the Course Schedule.

These two essays will be devoted to a detailed analysis of a work or pair of works, on a specific topic chosen from among several I will pose. The important points to stress are that you will not be writing either a plot summary or an explication, nor will you be writing a research paper;.  Rather you will be writing either an analysis or a comparison-contrast. In the second paper, you may expect to deal with at least one work that we have not discussed in class.

You will want to review the memo on criteria for evaluating examination answers.  What is said here applies both to short essays written in-class and to longer essays written out of class.

In this connection, too, Kansas State University Faculty Senate Regulations require me to bring to your attention the University's provisions regarding Academic Honesty.

Another one-sixth of the points possible in the course will be assigned on the basis of your continuing and regular participation in discussions conducted over the Web. The main way in which you can earn credit in this category is by taking a thoughtful and active role in the discussions conducted over our class Threaded Message Board.  

You should aim to contribute, in the course of the semester, at least 25 comments (follow-up questions are also welcome) in response to this question, or in response to another class member's comment or question in connection with this "Question of the Day."  Of course, you can at any time open a line of discussion on our class message board on any topic you choose concerning the stories we read or the critical concepts we are working with.  This, too, is a good way to demonstrate your on-going intellectual engagement in the issues generated by the course.

Please note that this on-going intellectual engagement in the issues pertinent to the course is so important that the credit allotted to it is quite substantial.  Looked at one way, you have the potential here for an easy 50 points -- the equivalent of perfect scores on both of the out-of-class essays!  Looked at another way, you have the potential for a quite unhappy outcome.  Do the math and you'll see.

Suppose you ended up with a total of 220 points on the basis of the two exams and two out-of-class essays.  That's 88% of the 250 possible on those parts of the course -- a good solid B+ so far.  Now suppose you came up with the whole 50 points to be gained from participation in the message board discussions.  (35 contributions would guarantee this.  I'm not picky in assessing these entries, except that I count only those which have to do with the issues arising from the stories and from the critical concepts we take up.)  That would result in a grand total of 270 points, or 90% of all the points possible -- just into the A bracket.  Suppose, though, you waived off this part of the course, and ended up with no credit at all for it.  (This has in fact happened in the past.)  The same 220 points divided by 300 comes out to 73.3% -- a C.

An independently of the impact just outlined, you should on the assumption that regular practice in trying to articulate your ideas and puzzlements to others will in fact help make your performances on the essays and exams better than they otherwise would have been, especially in the later stretches of the course.

Participation in classroom discussions is also important.  Here, however,  I do not employ a formal scheme for assigning points.  Rather, when I am faced, at the end of the course, with a case in which a student's total score is just barely beneath the cutoff for a higher course grade, I consult my overall impression of whether and to what degree that student has participated actively and consistently in classroom discussions.  If the answer is "definitely a lot," I am inclined to give the student the benefit of a percentage-point or so of extra credit.  Otherwise, I leave the grade as it is.  This of course is a matter of my subjective impression, but what that impression will turn out to be is fully within the control of the individual student, in the course of the semester.

A final note on the writing you do for this course: what you write is your own property, but whatever you submit in response to the requirements of the course may be reproduced and distributed for discussion and/or reflection by other members of the class. Written work that I decide to use this way will not be identified with the person who submitted it, unless I am holding it up as an example particularly worthy of emulation.

If I think there is merit in using beyond our course something you have written during our course, I will use it this way only after I have sought and obtained your permission to do so.  If you allow me to make such use of your work, you may specify (for instance) whether it is attributed to you or whether it is presented as the work of an anonymous student.


  Suggestions are welcome.  Please send your comments to lyman@ksu.edu .

   Contents copyright © 2001 by Lyman A. Baker.

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.
  This page last updated 20 August 2001.