Traversing the Real of Fiction
English 261N (07131-7): Introduction to Fiction
Summer 2001, T/R: 7:30 - 9:18 PM, Derby Hall 80
Not as onself did one find rest ever, in her experience
. . . but as a wedge of darkness.
—Virginia Woolf, To the Lighthouse
What does fiction mean? What does fiction do? How does fiction
function? What is the relationship between fiction and reality?
What truths might fiction confront us with? This introduction to fiction
course will focus on fiction that traverses traumatic realities. From
the uncreated conscience in Joyce to the wedge of darkness in Woolf, from Caddy's
muddy drawers in Faulkner to Paul D's tin box in Morrison, from the sadism of
Frank Booth's oxygen-masked begging to the question of Billy Pilgrim's time-shifting
in Vonnegut, we'll analyze how fiction exposes, engages, or covers up core metahysical
and psychological truths. We'll investigate how the key elements of fiction—character,
plot, setting, and point of view—function to bare or deny the underlying existential
realities of the story. We'll use the course listserv to prepare for class
discussion; we'll take pop quizzes to keep up with the readings; we'll write
a term paper to deepen our analysis of a particular fiction; and we'll take
essay exams to make connections between the texts.
required (available at SBX)
Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury
Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young
Morrison, Toni, Beloved
Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt, Slaughterhouse Five
Woolf, Virginia, To the Lighthouse
required (available at Main Library Reserves and in course
Barth, John, "Lost in the Funhouse"
Coover, Raymond, "The Babysitter"
Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, "The Yellow Wallpaper"
Hemingway, Ernest, "The End of Something"
Poe, Edgar Allan, "The Fall of the House of Usher"
recommended (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)
Roberts, Edgar V., Writing about Literature,
Assignments and Grade Distribution
2 listserve responses (email, 250 words minimum), 10%
Sign up for two
readings to react to, tentatively interpret, and broach issues for class discussion.
These papers are informal, thus need not be polished; however, they should be
fully engaged with the ideas and themes of the text. Please submit it
to the course listservice, <firstname.lastname@example.org>,
by 7:30 PM the Saturday before the reading will be discussed in class.
Due to the strictly enforced late assignment policy (see below), I suggest emailing
the responses well in advance of the deadline in order that you can make sure
they are posted on time.
We'll take short answer, fill in the blank, and multiple
choice quizzes at the beginning of class approximately every class period in
order to make ourselves keep up with the reading, prepare for class discussion,
and come to class on time.
a final paper (2000 words minimum), 30%
The final paper should extend and develop a conversation
regarding an assigned reading, compare and contrast two works based upon issues
broached in class discussion, or interpret a work of literature outside of our
reading list (subject to my approval).
a midterm exam, 25%
In class, we'll answer two or three essay questions
which compel us to make connections among the texts we've read as well as analyze
those texts through the lens of particular elements of fiction.
a final exam, 25% Same as midterm. Cumulative.
We're going to be working with challenging stories.
We'll all benefit from sharing our questions and ideas. The listserv is the
first step but only a first step; let's continue those discussions in class.
There will be a one-letter final grade deduction
per day for all unexcused absences beyond two.
There will be a one-letter grade deduction per day
(not class period) for any assignment that is turned in late.
Don't do it. Using someone else's words, ideas,
or work without proper citation and representing it as your own is the most
serious of academic offenses. All cases of suspected plagiarism will be
reported to the Committee on Academic Misconduct.
Office of Disability Services
If you have any specific needs or concerns, please
feel free to discuss the issue with me during office hours. Students with
disabilities who need accommodations should be registered at the Office for
Disability Services (292-3307).
The staff of the Writing Center serve as readers
and responders to writing for English 110, English 367 and other university
disciplines. Besides giving feedback, these English graduate students
can help with other writing issues such as topic development, organization,
coherence, clarity, and self-editing. To make an appointment, call 292-5607
or stop by 485 Mendenhall Labs M/W 8:30-5:30, T/R 8:30-7:30, and F 8:30-1:30.
On the Monday after finals week, I will have your
final papers ready for you to pick up. Make arrangements with me to retrieve
your work, or I will discard it after two quarters.
This schedule is subject to change, so listen in class and check online for possible revisions.
Authors link to helpful websites on that writer; short stories
link to the primary text, which is also available at the Main Library Reserves;
and focus on fiction links to the elements of fiction page.
Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (course
Poe, "The Fall
of the House of Usher" (course
Focus on Fiction: Conflict
Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Focus on Fiction: Character
Focus on Fiction: Setting
| Week 3
End of Something" (course
Hemingway, "Soldier's Home" (course
Focus on Fiction: Tone
||No Class: Reading Day
| Week 4
Focus on Fiction: Point of View
Woolf, To the Lighthouse
Focus on Fiction: Symbolism and
| Week 5
Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury
Focus on Fiction: Point of View,
Focus on Fiction: Imagery
| Week 6
| Week 7
Barth, "Lost in
the Funhouse" in course
Coover, "The Babysitter" in course
Focus on Fiction: Plot and Structure
Focus on Fiction: Symbolism
and Allegory, Part II
| Week 8
Focus on Fiction: Theme
In-class movie: Lynch, Blue Velvet
***Meet in Ramsayer Hall 100
| Week 9
Focus on Fiction: Fiction and Film
No Class: Writing Day
| Week 10
||Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse Five
Final Paper Due