ENGLISH 211: Studies in Fiction
Spring 2006, Section 0538
(UC:CSU credit)

Professor Karin Garlepp Burns

Faculty Office 2504
Email: burnskg@piercecollege.edu

Voicemail: 818/710-4325
Office Hours: M-Th 9:00-9:30; F 9-12

Course Description
What is a story? Why do we tell stories? What do stories tell us? English 211 attempts to answer such questions as we examine classic stories from the Western tradition. It covers works individually, in a way that explores the development of fiction as a distinct form of literature. Students will also learn vocabulary and techniques involved in prose fiction and writers' perspectives on their own craft.

Course Prerequisites
Successful completion of English 101or its equivalent. English 102 or its equivalent is recommended. If you have not taken English 102, use the recommended handbook on how to write essays about literature. Prerequisites will be verified at the beginning of the semester.

Course Requirements
Attendance is mandatory and participation is highly encouraged. Exams rely heavily on material covered in class, which includes passages to be identified and analyzed in the exams. There is regular homework on the readings and associated storytelling techniques. Read the assigned literature attentively before every class meeting to ensure understanding of lectures and facilitate discussion.

Grades
essay 1 (5 pages) 15%
midterm (short answer) 15%
essay 2 (7 pages) 25%
final exam (short answer & essay) 35%
miscellaneous: attendance, homework, participation 10%

Required Texts
Cassil, R.V. Ed. Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. 6th Edition
Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights.
Fyodor Dostoevsky. Notes from Underground.
Louise Erdrich. Love Medicine.
Recommended Text
Kelley Griffith. Writing Essays about Literature: A Guide and Style Sheet.

Course Policies
1. Plagiarism: using someone else's words, ideas, or work as your own without acknowledgement will result in failure of the course.
2. Tardies and absences will lower student performance and may affect course status. More than 2 absences by the end of the census will result in the student being excluded from the class. It is the students' responsibility to drop themselves from class, however.
3. Late essays are accepted one period after the deadline only. Thereafter, they lapse to an "F."
4. Late essays are penalized one letter grade. If you know of schedule conflicts that may require you to submit a paper late, you must discuss it with me before the due date.
5. All essays must follow the MLA style or they will not be accepted. Consult the recommended guide on the rules.

*****

Assignments: Spring 2006
(Subject to change)

Week 1

Course introduction: Fact, or Fiction? The Newest Twist on an Old Debate
The tale tradition: Dinesen, "The Blue Jar"; fairy tale, parable, tale

Week 2

The short story: Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher"; "Review of Hawthorne's Twice Told Tales"; mood, setting, symbol
The Romantic tradition: Bronte, Wuthering Heights; gothic, romanticism*

Week 3
Wuthering Heights; Byronic hero*; character
Wuthering Heights, frame narrative

Week 4
The Realist tradition; Melville, "Bartleby, The Scrivener"; milieu, realism
Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"; climax, flashback

Week 5
Chopin, "The Story of an Hour"; irony: dramatic, situational, verbal*
Chekhov, "The Lady with the Dog"; ambiguity, pathos

Week 6
Essay 1 due; Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground; novella
Dostoevsky, Notes from Underground; satire

Week 7
Cather, "Paul's Case"; objectivity
The Modernist crisis: Conrad, Heart of Darkness; modernism*

Week 8
Conrad, Heart of Darkness; Hannah, "On Heart of Darkness" (331);
Achebe, "An Image of Africa" (handout); atmosphere, tone
Kafka, The Metamorphosis; surrealism

Week 9
Kafka, The Metamorphosis; credibility
Midterm Exam: bluebook required (closed book)

Spring Break: 4/10 - 4/14

Week 10
Lawrence, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" (976); primitivism
"Why the Novel Matters" (1699)
Wright, "The Man Who Was Almost a Man"; foreshadowing

Week 11
Hemingway, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber"(handout)
understatement; "An Interview" (1693)
Garcia Marquez, "The Handsomest Man That Drowned"; magical realism*
"Interview" (handout)

Week 12

O"Brien "The Things They Carried"; episodic, plot
Jones, "The Pugilist at Rest"

Week 13

Essay 2 due; Carver, "Cathedral"; voice
Proulx, "Brokeback Mountain"

Week 14
"Brokeback Mountain" (film analysis)
Erdrich, Love Medicine

Week 15

Erdrich, Love Medicine
Erdrich, Love Medicine; wrap up & final review

 

On Fiction

What is fiction?


moral, social, and artistic value: "low" origins and suspect purpose
distrust of the imagination, invention, originality: storytelling as frivolous entertainment, delusion, lying
imitation: how good a copy? is a copy good enough? should it be a copy?

How to convey fictional "truth": In symbolic or realistic form?


Romance (fantasy, larger than life, higher reality) vs. Realism (mirrors ordinary reality, life and people)

Tale (action, message/moral oriented) vs. Portrait (character, unity of plot)

Effect of debates:
anxiety and constant renovation (novel as a "loose and baggy monster")
trends: fantasy->realism->fantastic sense of reality

How to approach fiction:
plunge in: engage with it, experience it
reread closely, critically
watch teller and point of view
note details and patterns
consider impact of techniques
tell someone about it
live with it