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COURSE NAME: "The Short Story"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Alessandra Grego
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 10:00-11:15 AM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: by appointment

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 is a reading and writing intensive course. Students in 200-level literature classes are required to produce 4-5,000 words of critical writing.

"When you can state the theme of a story, when you can separate it from the story itself, then you can be sure the story is not a very good one. The meaning of a story has to be embodied in it, has to be made concrete in it. A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is. […] The meaning of fiction is not abstract meaning but experienced meaning, and the purpose of making statements about the meaning of a story is only to help you to experience that meaning more fully." (Flannery O'Connor, Writing Short Stories).

The short story is ideally suited, in terms of length and variety, to the identification of basic elements of fiction and to stimulate a critical approach to literature. Bearing O’Connor’s definition of the story in mind, the course will focus on this form of narrative in a comparative perspective, with a selection of short stories by contemporary authors of different nationality.

Students will learn to look beyond content, to read texts critically, to construct an argument and to formulate their ideas in writing. They will understand and employ critical terms and develop their writing skills to compose essays of academic quality, using textual evidence effectively and making competent use of critical sources.

Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Introduction to NarrativePorter AbbottCambridge University Press978-0521715157  

class contributionintelligent and informed participation in class discussion - silent attendance does not contribute to this portion of the grade.10%
2 response papersCritical assessment of formal elements of the short story 65%
Final research paper 25%

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 c
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.


Attendance is mandatory. Three late entries (after attendance has been taken) count as one absence. You are allowed four absences per term, more than five absences will result in a lowering of the final grade. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.


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.


Note: this is a preliminary schedule and may change

Week 1- Introduction to the Course.

The Fascination of narrative: fables, parables, tales and stories. Read Abbott, chap. 1


Week 2- Elements of Fiction: Read Abbott, chap. 2.


Week 3 – 1st Response due.


Week 4 – Elements of Fiction: Plot. Read Abbott, chap. 3


Week 5. Read. Abbott, chap. 4


Week 6 – Elements of Fiction: Setting. Read Abbott, chap. 5


Week 7 – 2nd Response due.


Week 8 – Elements of Fiction: Style, Tone. Read Abbott, chap. 6


Week 9. Read Abbott, chap. 10


Week 10 – Elements of Fiction: Imagery and Symbol. Select a topic for Research Paper.


Week 11 – 3rd Response due. Read Abbott, chap.11


Week 12 – Submit a Preliminary Annotated Bibliography for Research Paper.


Week 13 – Preliminary Outline of Final Paper


Week 14 –. Revision


Week 15 – Final Research paper due.