online syllabus:

electronic reserves:

 (password 101)

class handouts:

bedford web companion:

~ schedule ~

Literature 101:

Imaginary Worlds: An Introduction to Fiction

Fall 2009

Dr. Abby Coykendall

acoykenda at

Office: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
Office Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)
Office Hours: M 9:10-9:45; W 11:35-12:45; W 4:45-8:00 PM

~ or  email for an appointment ~

Section #12087

Monday & Wednesday 3:30-4:45 Pm

Pray-Harrold Hall 317


Imaginary Worlds: An Introduction to Fiction

Literature 101 is a class in which you will engage with a wide variety of prose fiction—novels, novellas, and short stories—ranging in period from the early modern era to the present and encompassing authors from around the world.  The primary aim is to provide a general introduction to fiction, including an examination of the major literary movements, periods, techniques, and genres.  By the end of the course, you will have surveyed representative fictional works written in English, honed your interpretative skills, familiarized yourself with literary conventions, and learned to think carefully critically and about those conventions.  Whether discussing literature or world events, we will attempt to expand rather than confine our engagement with the material, ultimately coming to understand how fiction offers a means to (re)envision and hopefully to (re)create the world in which we all live. 

Course Objectives: By the end of the course, you will be better able to

1)   Develop an appreciation of fiction, including the formal conventions of literary works;

2)   Broaden life experience through imagination, empathy, and engagement with diverse narratives and perspectives;

3)   Learn to interpret fiction within various historical, philosophical, and cultural contexts, studying a wide selection of canonical and non-canonical texts from different literary periods;

4)   Understand the reciprocal relationships between literature and culture, becoming aware of the ways that literature effects culture and that culture effects literature in turn;

5)   Enhance critical-thinking skills through self-reflexivity, as well as through reflection on cultures foreign and familiar;

6)   Become conversant in the terminology, debates, and practices of literature and literary criticism;

7)   Communicate this newly acquired knowledge verbally and, when possible, in writing.

General Education Rationale:

Fiction draws readers in by presenting compelling characters, engaging situations, or familiar human problems.  Whether the worlds in fiction feel comfortably realistic or expand a reader’s horizons with their newness, fiction remains popular for its ability to explore the boundaries of human possibility.  Literature 101 is designed to cultivate students’ appreciation of prose fiction by providing a context to learn about the formal and historical features of different kinds of short stories and novels.  As a Humanities course in the Knowledge of the Disciplines, this class introduces terms important for the critical understanding of fiction as an imaginative literary form.  It also helps students analyze the plots, character, and setting of fiction not only as windows into the themes of the texts but as literary works that have impacted and influenced the on-going traditions of Western literature.  Because the course focuses on different types of fiction in historical contexts, students gain a nuanced understanding of the cultural meaning of fiction and learn to interpret these texts as a complex social practice meaningful as human art.

Course Texts and Materials:





 ** 40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology, ed. Beverly Lawn, 3rd Edition (Bedford 2008; ISBN# 0312477104)

 ** Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (Vintage 1995; ISBN# 0679723161) **

 ** Octavia Butler, Kindred (Beacon 2004; ISBN# 0807083690) **

The other texts can be accessed online and printed for free on any campus computer.  See the Electronic Reserves (ER):, password 101.  ** Make sure to bring copies of the required texts that we are covering to class.  You will need everything on hand for group work and class discussions.

Assignments & Assessment:

Nothing is more vital for success in this course than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the reading assignments, response papers, and class discussions each day.  The more actively you participate, the more the course content can reflect your unique needs and interests.  As with any university course, homework will take around two hours to complete for every unit of class or, in other words, six hours per week.  See the Homework Assignments handout (/hmwk.htm) for specific information, including ways to augment your grade through extra credit if you fall behind.


Participation  (Homework, Responses, Groupwork, Presentation)

 due dates:


Examination #1: Elements of Fiction  (True-False; Short-Answer; Essay)

October 5


Comparison-Contrast Essay (On Two Short Stories in the Anthology)

December 2


Examination #2: Application to Short Stories & Novels (True-False; Self-Designed Essay Question)

December 16 (3:00-4:30 PM)

Instructor Availability

I will be delighted to discuss any course-related questions, interests, or concerns in person (603G Pray Harrold) or by phone (487-0147) during my office hours, as well as through email (acoykenda at at any time.  Email is the most reliable way to reach me outside of the office since the messaging system for my office phone is dysfunctional at best.  Emails with straightforward questions usually receive a reply within a few hours to a day; those with thornier issues typically receive a reply before the next class period.  Please limit emails to inquiries which I alone can answer so that I can give more pressing inquiries of other students the attention that they deserve.  If, for example, you are unsure about a due date, consult the syllabus, the handouts (/hand.htm), or the peers in your group (/groups.htm), and then email me only if that confusion persists.  The first time that you visit my office hours in person with a course-related inquiry, such as to get guidance with the homework, discuss the readings that we have lately covered, or brainstorm essay ideas, I will give you 10 points extra credit for the visit.


Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion—rather than facts, figures, or memorization—regular attendance is crucial.  You never need to explain your absences, as I always assume that you have an excellent reason to miss class.  However, students who miss more than FOUR classes for any reason will have their final grade reduced by a full mark, and those who miss more than FIVE classes will not be eligible to pass.  Reserve these absences for illnesses, car accidents, or other emergencies that prevent you from coming to class and make sure not to exhaust them too early in the term.  When you must be absent, contact the other students in the class to share notes or determine what you missed.  All absences up to the second are excused automatically, the missed homework is due on your return, and any changes to the schedule will be sent to the class as a whole by email.


The most essential information—due dates, assignment instructions, clarification of outstanding issues—is given at the beginning of class, so it is essential to come on time.  Try to arrive early just in case you encounter any problems along the way (traffic jams, late busses, no parking).  Arriving well into the period or leaving well before its conclusion each count as half an absence.  Habitual lateness that disrupts the class will eventually be counted as an absence as well.

Classroom Etiquette

It is important to be mindful of your peers during class time, listening to them with the same respect and attention that you hope to receive yourself.  Once class begins, do not distract your peers by walking in or out of the room unless there is a genuine emergency If you have a medical condition requiring you to exit from time to time, bring a formal doctor’s note affirming as such; otherwise, reserve all personal business for the break midway through the class period.  Disruptive exits can be both mental and physical; students unprepared to do the groupwork for the day, or students discovered using laptops for purposes unrelated to the course, will be asked to leave and marked absent.

Grading Scale:





























Academic Resources & Campus Safety

At some point in the term, you might consider taking advantage of the Academic Projects Center, located in Halle (Room 104).  This support center, open from 11:00-5:00 Monday-Thursday, assists with research, writing, and technology skills necessary for success in this and any other course.  Another support center is the International Student Resource Center (200 Alexander, 487-0370) dedicated to second-language students from abroad.  Also consider availing yourself of the campus escort service, Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety, by calling 48-SEEUS (487-3387).  If you sign up for the emergency text-messaging system (, DPS can notify us of any calamity afflicting the campus.

Academic Integrity

Understanding and avoiding academic dishonesty, and doing all coursework on your own, is imperative.  Copying the homework of peers, taking credit for essays that you find on the internet, or recycling your own essays written for other classes for double credit are all forms of academic dishonesty, and for very good reason.  Each interferes with the sole purpose, and the unique benefit, of going to college; namely, the unfettered exercise of an informed mind.  The worst form of academic dishonesty is plagiarism, which, put simply, is taking either the ideas or words of another person and reusing them as if they are your own. 

You must acknowledge when you make use of concepts and/or expressions of other people without any exception under any circumstance, whether it be in drawing on Wikipedia for mundane (and quite possibly specious) information or in channeling the most holy of holy books for heavenly inspiration.  When describing the ideas of someone else in your own words, make sure to signal as such (e.g., So and so says X … ”); most importantly, when inserting the words of someone else into your own writing, make sure to credit that person for the passage and place quotation marks on either side (e.g., So and so says “X”).  Any writing that lacks these acknowledgements will pass as your own by default, and any writing that thus seems to be your own, without actually being your own, will be plagiarizing the original source.

Any instance of academic dishonesty will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment; any second instance will result in outright failure of the course.  There is no excuse for academic dishonesty, nor any exceptions to this policy, so make sure that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in.


File last saved September 9, 2009