Alex E. Blazer Course Site Assignments Description
Materials Assignments Policies Schedule


Traversing the Real of Fiction

English 261N (07131-7): Introduction to Fiction

Summer 2001, T/R: 7:30 - 9:18 PM, Derby Hall 80


Instructor: Alex E. Blazer Office: 525 Denney Hall
Mailbox: 421 Denney Hall Office Hours: T/R: 6:00-7:18
Email: Office Phone: 292-1790
Web: Departmental Phone: 292-6065


Course Description

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.


Course Materials


required (available at SBX)

Faulkner, William, The Sound and the Fury

Joyce, James, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Morrison, Toni, Beloved

Vonnegut, Jr., Kurt, Slaughterhouse Five

Woolf, Virginia, To the Lighthouse

required (available at Main Library Reserves and in course packet)

Barth, John, "Lost in the Funhouse"

Coover, Raymond, "The Babysitter"

Gilman, Charlotte Perkins, "The Yellow Wallpaper"

Hemingway, Ernest, "The End of Something"

"Soldier's Home"

Poe, Edgar Allan, "The Fall of the House of Usher"

recommended (available at SBX and Main Library Reserves)

Roberts, Edgar V., Writing about Literature, 9th ed.


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, <>, 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.

quizzes, 10%

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.


Course Policies


Class Participation

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.

Late Assignments

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).

Writing Center

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.

Student Work

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.


Course Schedule


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.


Week 1 6-19 Introductions, Syllabus

Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper" (course packet)

Poe, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (course packet)

Focus on Fiction: Conflict

Week 2 6-26

Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Focus on Fiction: Character


Joyce, continued

Focus on Fiction: Setting

Week 3 7-3

Hemingway, "The End of Something" (course packet)

Hemingway, "Soldier's Home" (course packet)

Focus on Fiction: Tone

7-5 No Class: Reading Day
Week 4 7-10

Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Focus on Fiction: Point of View


Woolf, To the Lighthouse

Focus on Fiction: Symbolism and Allegory

Week 5 7-17

Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Focus on Fiction: Point of View, Part II


Faulkner, continued

Focus on Fiction: Imagery

Week 6 7-24 Exam Review
7-26 Midterm Exam
Week 7 7-31

Barth, "Lost in the Funhouse" in course packet

Coover, "The Babysitter" in course packet

Focus on Fiction: Plot and Structure


Morrison, Beloved

Focus on Fiction: Symbolism and Allegory, Part II

Week 8 8-7

Morrison, continued

Focus on Fiction: Theme


In-class movie: Lynch, Blue Velvet

***Meet in Ramsayer Hall 100

Week 9 8-14

Movie, continued

Focus on Fiction: Fiction and Film


No Class: Writing Day

Paper Conferences

Week 10 8-21 Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., Slaughterhouse Five

Exam Review

Conclusions, Evaluations

Final Paper Due

Finals 8-28 Final Exam