ENGL 320: Introduction to the Short Story
Lyman Baker, Instructor

Writing Assignments

In the course of the semester, each student is expected to hand in 5 writing assignments:  Four of these will be worth 5 points each, and one will be worth 10 points apiece, for a total of 30 points out of the 330 total points possible in the course. (The remaining 200 points come from the 2 exams, each worth 100 points.)

The 10-point assignment will be chosen from the assignments on the following

Of the remaining four, the Course Schedule will designate two that everyone must do (one on a "realistic" story, the other on an allegorical or fablesque or "surrealistic" one).  These I will provide comments upon (often fairly detailed).  The remaining two may be chosen from the variety of additional writing assignments appearing in the Course Schedule (Part 1, Part 2, and/or Part 3).  These two, and the 10-pointer, I will simply score.  I may also put some samples of student writing on our web site, with commentary, or use them in a class handout.  (Any work submitted in the course of the semester is eligible for sharing this way, but I will not specify the name of the writer unless I first obtain his or her permission.)

For many of the stories we will be reading this semester, you will find a Study Guide on our web site.  (This will often be linked to from the Course Schedule, or it may be linked to from the writing assignment on that story.)  You should never attempt a writing assignment unless you have carefully worked through the corresponding Study Guide first (assuming of course that there is one).

For those stories you do not submit a writing assignment upon, I will expect you to have read the story in the light of the Study Guide (if available) and to have at least perused the Writing Assignment before you come to class on the day the story is due to be discussed.  You may expect to be asked direct questions in class -- individually, as well as as a group.

Writing assignments are due on the date cited at the beginning of class.

Format and Procedure for the Writing Assignments

All assignments (whether for 5 or for 10 points) will be submitted in Xerox form on specified days at the beginning of class:  No make-ups will be allowed:  You may write them out by hand, but do not use a hard pencil or a ball point pen with blue ink: these do not reproduce well:  Typed papers or computer printouts are preferred:  But take care to avoid using an exhausted ribbon:  Whether typed or handwritten, illegible copies will not be accepted:  These requirements will ensure that others in the class have the opportunity to read your reflections in a timely fashion, and that you yourself are genuinely prepared to contribute to class discussion on the day allocated to that particular story.

Aim for at least a full, single-spaced typed page (standard 1-inch margins, 12-point type). This means that if you write out your analysis by hand, you will want to shoot for more than a page. Of course this is just a general guideline. Your paper doesn't have to be a full page, but if it's fairly short of that, you have a pretty fair indication that you need to push yourself further. See the section Hints on at the bottom of this page.

Nature and Rationale of the Writing Assignments

The problems I will formulate for you to work through will be such that an adequate job will require at least a healthy couple or three paragraphs, and probably somewhat more than a page:  They will not be what is commonly known in secondary school as a "reaction paper." The job is not merely to say what you liked or didn't like about the story, or what you found interesting or puzzling:  Rather, you are to do your best to carry through an specific agenda of curiosity about some particular aspect of the story:  This agenda of curiosity I will set forth in the writing assignment:  Your task is to try to reason out as sound an answer as you can to the particular question I pose, and to explain as specifically as you can what your reasoning consists in:  That is, you will want to show what facts and details of the work you are dealing with lead to what conclusions, and to make explicit the arguments that connect those details with those conclusions:  For many of you, it will not come easy, this process of discovery and this reasoned explaining of why the inferences you have arrived at are sound:  But these skills develop only with practice, and since the development of these skills is the goal of this course, this practice required by these assignments is one of the most essential goods that the course has to offer.

Grades for writing assignments.

These aims, then  prompting people to come to class in a condition that enables them to participate (actively or passively) in the right sort of discussion, and forcing you to practice doing something important that you might not otherwise do , govern the scheme I will use for scoring the 5-point writing assignments you submit. (For the 10-point assignment, you can multiply the figures below by 2.)

You can use the writing assignments in a general way to rehearse some of the habits that make for good writing on exams.  Of course, in your writing assignments, you will not have had the benefit of class discussions of the story, as you will when you come to dealing with exam questions.  But you can practice the kind of critical reading of successive drafts that makes for more insightful analysis.  See the remarks on criteria for evaluating answers on exams.

Hints about how to generate enough of the right sort of "stuff."

A fruitful analysis will not "spin wheels" saying the same thing over and over again in different words. Instead it "goes somewhere." What do you do if you find yourself stuck? Say you're way short of the page you are urged to produce, and -- rightly -- you don't want to string things out by mere repetition?

A good idea is to go back over what you've already produced and see if it is possible to carry out one or more of the following moves:

Faculty Senate regulations require me to bring your attention to University Policy Regarding Academic Honesty and Plagiarism.

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

      Contents copyright 1999 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

  This page last updated 04 February 1999.