English 2300A Prose Fiction (2010)

English 2300*Prose Fiction*TTh 13:40 – 14:55*W561*Dr. Kiki Benzon

Texts: The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction (Bausch and Cassell); Everything is Illuminated (Jonathan Safran Foer); Vile Bodies (Evelyn Waugh)Evaluation: 10 one-page papers (best of 12), 10% each

Course Outline: In this course, we will study the rudiments of prose literature, toward becoming skilled analytical readers. Most of our readings, drawn from the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, will be short fictional works by authors such as Borges, Barthelme, Conrad, Hemingway, Mann, Poe and Tolstoy. Through examining various short texts, we will consider literary strategies and concepts such as narrative structure, voice, theme and character. We will also read two important twentieth-century novels: Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies and Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated. These two novels, while expressing the aesthetic and political concerns of modernism and postmodernism respectively, evince the psychological insight, philosophical complexity, and cultural critique that the novel form can achieve.

Week 1: Sept 8-10
Th Introduction to the course

Week 2: Sept 13-17
T Williams, “The Use of Force”
Th Cheever, “The Enormous Radio”

Week 3: Sept 20-24
T Kafka, The Metamorphosis *Paper #1 due
Th Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Week 4: Sept 27 – Oct 1
T Poe, “The Fall of the House of Usher” *Paper #2 due
Th Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Week 5: Oct 4-8
T Waugh, Vile Bodies *Paper #3 due
Th Waugh, Vile Bodies

Week 6: Oct 11-15
T Waugh, Vile Bodies *Paper #4 due
Th Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Week 7: Oct 18-22
T Conrad, Heart of Darkness *Paper #5 due
Th Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Week 8: Oct 25-29
T Tolstoy, “The Death of Ivan Ilych” * Paper #6 due
Th Tolstoy, “The Death of Ivan Ilych”

Week 9: Nov 1-5
T Mann, Death in Venice *Paper #7 due
Th Mann, Death in Venice

Week 10: Nov 8-12
T Hemingway, “Hills Like White Elephants” *Paper #8 due
Th Remembrance Day – no class

Week 11: Nov 15-19
T Borges, “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” *Paper #9 due
Th Barthelme, “Me and Miss Mandible”

Week 12: Nov 22-26
T Foer, Everything is Illuminated *Paper #10 due
Th Foer, Everything is Illuminated

Week 13: Nov 29- Dec 3
T Foer, Everything is Illuminated *Paper #11 due
Th Foer, Everything is Illuminated

Week 14: Dec 6-10
T Foer, Everything is Illuminated
Th Foer, Everything is Illuminated *Paper #12 due

Notes on evaluation: There are 12 short paper assignments. You may submit 12 papers, but only your top 10 grades will count toward your final grade. Questions for each paper will be provided at the beginning of term; on some weeks you will have a choice of two questions. Papers must be handed in personally at the beginning of lecture on the due date. Papers handed in late will not be accepted.

Papers must contain between 300 and 350 words. The text should be in 12 pt. Times New Roman font, double-spaced, and justified at the left margin only. Please, no cover pages—just write your name, the date, and assignment number at the top of the page. Any deviation from these guidelines will result in lost marks.

You do not have to provide a Works Cited page, unless you are using editions of texts other than the ones assigned for the course. You do need to provide page numbers for any quotations, however, in proper MLA format.

The papers will be graded based on intellectual content (6 marks) and clarity of expression (4 marks). You will be deducted 1/2 a mark for each spelling and grammatical mistake to a maximum of 6 marks.

In a paper with strong intellectual content, the following will apply:

The paper is on topic; it answers the question posed.
Textual evidence is provided to support critical claims.
The argument is reasonable, original, and is founded upon information in the text rather than unsubstantiated, subjective opinions.

A paper has clarity of expression if the following are true:

The argument is coherent and can be easily understood; it is not repetitive.
Words are used correctly. Ideas are expressed succinctly with no extraneous words or meaningless phrases.
Direct quotations are properly integrated.

Questions and Due Dates

1. What is the symbolic function of the radio in Cheever’s “The Radio”? September 21

2. In what sense is Kafka’s The Metamorphosis a critique of the traditional family unit? September 28

3. How do physical features of the house in Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” reflect the internal experiences of its residents?
In what way is the patient in Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” an artist figure?
October 5

4. How does narrative structure in Waugh’s Vile Bodies mirror the society it depicts? October 12

5. Argue for or against: In Waugh’s Vile Bodies, Adam and Nina are sympathetic characters.
What is the psychological function of the Congo River in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness?
October 19

6. At the end of Heart of Darkness, Marlow tells the widow that her name was the last word that Kurtz spoke. Why does he tell her this, and why is it ironic? October 26

7. In what sense is Tolstoy’s “The Death of Ivan Ilych” a critique of bourgeois society? November 2

8. How does Aschenbach’s dream relate to his real experiences in Mann’s Death in Venice? November 9

9. In Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants,” how does the physical setting parallel the personal conflict of the characters? November 16

10. What aspects of Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” identify it as a metafictional work?
What is social criticism underlies the absurd scenario in Barthelme’s “Me and Miss Mandible”?
November 23

11. How do the three narrative frames in Foer’s Everything is Illuminated work together to produce a “unified” story? November 30

12. What are the various meanings of “illumination” in Foer’s Everything is Illuminated? December 9