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COURSE NAME: "The Short Story"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Summer Session II 2018

INSTRUCTOR: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MTWTH 11:10-1:00 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

This is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 200-level literature classes are required to produce 4-5,000 words of critical writing.
By examining short stories, this course develops students’ critical abilities in reading and writing about narrative fiction. The students are introduced to a comparative perspective on literature and learn to identify and evaluate the short story’s formal elements, acquiring the skill to read fiction critically, to look beyond the content, to appreciate the ambiguities and complexities of the literary text, and to communicate their findings in critical papers of academic quality. The selection of short stories may vary, offering a historical perspective, a thematic one, or a selection of masterpieces in the genre.

This course is a study of the contemporary short story. We will read and closely analyze stories that are (1) between 2,000 and 12,000 words; (2) labeled fiction; and (3) published after 1960. We will consider various readings of the story, taking into consideration the short story as a reflection of its social and cultural moment. We will identify and discuss the formal elements of the story, such as its structure (beginnings, endings, narrative arc, etc.), fictional techniques (character development, dialogue, language), and themes. Using a discussion-based format, we will incorporate interviews with short-story writers, as well as essays identifying contemporary short story trends. Readings will include a wide variety of authors, notably key contemporary voices poised to influence the future of the genre. Each of these writers offers a particular vision of the form and its unique gifts.  


·     Develop an understanding of the form of the contemporary short story. 

·     Perform close readings and analyze the short story. 

·     Identify the formal elements of a given short story (e.g. point of view, character development, metaphor, scenic structure)

·     Contextualize the contemporary short story in social and cultural movements as well as historical contexts.


Attendance/DiscussionYou are expected to attend every class. I will note attendance at the beginning of each class. If you are late, you will need to check in with me at the end of class.Your class participation grade also includes attentive listening and active contributions to class discussions. You should take notes when reading the assigned reading and come to class prepared with questions and comments for discussion. You are expected to listen respectfully to your peers, and build upon their comments.10%
JournalEach week, you will make two entries in your journal reflecting on the reading. Journal entries may be typed or handwritten, but should be approximately five to six paragraphs long. I will collect your journals halfway through the term for an informal check and then again at the conclusion for a formal grade. At that time, you will have a total of 10 journal entries: two for each week. The content of your entries is largely up to you, but use the following questions as a guide: What did we cover in class this week that interested you and why? What did we cover that did not interest you and why? Which specific stories did you like or dislike and why? Was there anything that was unclear to you at the end of the week? Is there anything we discussed this week you wanted to hear more about? The journals should be fully developed reflections, not merely summaries of the week’s readings/discussion. I take the journals very seriously as a reflection of students’ engagement with the course material, so take your time crafting each entry. 15%
Reader Response PresentationOne of the interesting things about fiction is that the prose doesn’t tell us everything: we as readers bring our own understanding and imagination to the experience of fiction. Some theorists claim that the meaning of the piece of fiction is not created solely by the author in the composition process, but rather assisted by the reader in the interpretive process. This assignment is designed to delve into our subjective interpretations, both as individuals and as a community of readers. It is an oral/visual presentation presented by individual students each week.20%
Analytical PaperYou will write one 5-7 page paper that compares/contrasts two short stories we have studied in the class. 25%
Final ExamYour exam will be straightforward. I do not believe in literature exams that are designed to trip up well-meaning and hardworking students. The exam will be a simple short answer/multiple choice test that assesses your knowledge and understanding of the course content.30%

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the course.
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

You cannot make-up a major exam (midterm or final) without the permission of the Dean’s Office. The Dean’s Office will grant such permission only when the absence was caused by a serious impediment, such as a documented illness, hospitalization or death in the immediate family (in which you must attend the funeral) or other situations of similar gravity. Absences due to other meaningful conflicts, such as job interviews, family celebrations, travel difficulties, student misunderstandings or personal convenience, will not be excused. Students who will be absent from a major exam must notify the Dean’s Office prior to that exam. Absences from class due to the observance of a religious holiday will normally be excused. Individual students who will have to miss class to observe a religious holiday should notify the instructor by the end of the Add/Drop period to make prior arrangements for making up any work that will be missed. The final exam will be given on August 3, 2018. 
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Week 1: July 2-July 6

Monday: Introduction to the Course; “The Pidgeon”

Tuesday: “Good Country People” by Flannery O’Connor; “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker

WednesdayNo class

Thursday: “Shiloh” by Bobbie Ann Mason; “Tapestry” by Edward P. Jones; “Sweat” by Zora Neale Hurston

Friday: Reader-Response Presentation; Elements of the Short Story


Week 2: July 9-July 13

Monday:“Janus” by Ann Beattie; “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” Raymond Carver

Tuesday:“Intervention” by Jill McCorkle

Wednesday:“The Shell Collector” by Anthony Doerr

Thursday:Reader-Response Presentation; Elements of the Short Story


Week 3: July 16-July 20

Monday: “And of Clay Are We Created” by Isabel Allende; “Surrounded by Sleep” by Akhil Sharma

Tuesday:“Silver Pavements” by Chitra Divakaruni; 

Wednesday:“Landscape with Flatiron” by Haruki Murakami; “When the Long Grass Bends” by Neela Vaswani

Thursday:Journal Check.Reader-Response Presentation; Elements of the Short Story


Week 4: July 23-July 27

Monday:“Half-Skinned Steer” by Annie Proulx

Tuesday:“Vampires in the Lemon Grove” by Karen Russell

Wednesday:Paper Due.“Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin; “In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried” by Amy Hempel

Thursday:Reader-Response Presentation; Elements of the Short Story


Week 5: July 30-August 3

Monday:“Marjorie Lemke” by Sarah Braunstein; “Suffer the Little Children” by Stephen King

Tuesday:“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison; “Nightingale” by Tobias Wolff

Wednesday:“These Hands” by Kevin Brockmeier

Thursday:Journals Due.Reader-Response Presentation; Elements of the Short Story

Friday:Final Exam