online syllabus:


electronic reserves:
(password 101)

bedford web companion:

class handouts:

halle library website:


~ schedule ~


Literature 101: Reading of Fiction
Introduction to Fiction


summer 2006

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Office Location: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
Office Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)
Office Hours: Monday & Tuesday 3:40-4:40 PM

~ or email for an appointment ~

Section 000; Registration # 40364
Monday & Wednesday 1:00 - 3:40
Pray Harrold Hall 306




Course Description: Reading of Fiction

Literature 101 is a class in which you will encounter and critically examine 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 critically and carefully 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 material world in which we all live.


Course Objectives

By the end of the semester, you will be better able to

1)  Develop an aesthetic appreciation of fiction, including an understanding of the generic and formal conventions of literary works;

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

3)  Learn to comprehend, analyze, and 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 culture effects literature;

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.

Required Texts

The following books are available at Ned’s bookstore (; 483-6400; 707 W. Cross), although additional copies may be available at other EMU bookstores.  Make sure to get the same editions pictured and listed below (double check the ISBN numbers, a fingerprint of sorts for the book); otherwise, the differing page numbers will make it difficult for you to follow along with class discussions.

40 Short Stories: A Portable Anthology, 2nd Edition, Ed. Beverly Lawn (Bedford, 2004; ISBN #031241305X)

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (Dover Thrift, 1993; ISBN #0486278077)

Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye (Plume, 2000; ISBN # 0452282195)

Some required readings will be located in the Electronic Reserves (ER):  (Contact another student if you forget the password, or see the top left-hand corner of the syllabus above).  It is best to print out the Electronic Reserve materials in advance from the computers on the first floor of the Halle library, where you will find a station with multimedia computers equipped with the Course Reserve software, as well as technicians nearby should you encounter any kind of problem.  In addition, the 40 Short Stories anthology has a helpful companion website:

** Make sure to bring a copy of each of the texts that we will be discussing to class, whether they be Electronic Reserve materials, selections from the anthology, or one of  the novels.   You will need to have the assigned material on hand for groupwork and class discussions. 




Participation (Homework, Presentation, Groupwork, & Class Discussion)

due dates: 


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

Wednesday, July 19


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

Wednesday, August 23


Four-Page Comparison-Contrast Essay (On two short stories from the anthology or a short story and a relevant film of choice, including the short story covered for the presentation)

Monday, August 28 (10 AM)


Nothing is more vital for success in this class than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the weekly reading assignments and class discussions.  The participation grade, largely based on homework, responses, in-class groupwork, and the presentation, is a considerable portion of your final grade — 25% — so keep up with the various reading and response assignments and make your voice heard in class whenever you feel the inclination.  Late homework assignments are typically not marked down, but they will be given no commentary.  Your total participation points will be averaged, put on a fair grading curve, and then bumped up or down slightly depending on how actively you engage in class discussions.



Readings: There is less reading for this course than for courses scheduled during the regular term; however, since each of our class periods is equivalent to two of those class periods, the reading schedule is necessarily going to be somewhat heavier than usual.  The readings for Mondays will typically be much less extensive than for Wednesdays, although sometimes we will have to do more to keep the class discussion on track, especially with the longer novels at the end of the term.

Responses are informal, initial reactions to a select number of the readings (further described on the Schedule below) that may be either handwritten or typed.  They should be at least 300 words (roughly two paragraphs), although longer or more engaged responses will not only enhance your participation grade, but also increase the ability of other students and myself to offer feedback.

Exam One will consist of 1] a brief objective section (true-false questions) on all of the fiction assigned for Section I, worth 15%; 2] a short-answer section applying the literary terminology and devices to the short stories, worth 30%; and 3] an essay question (provided in advance) on three of the short stories, worth 55%.   You will be able refer to an outline for the last section during the exam, but not to the literary terminology or texts themselves.  See the Guidelines on Exam One, which will be available just before the exam:

Exam Two will encompass more material and thus be worth more percentage points, but it will only have the first and third sections described above; namely, the true-false questions (worth 30%), which will comprehend the eight short stories covered in Sections II and III, and the essay question (worth 70%), which will comprehend the two novels in a comparison-contrast fashion with a topic and thesis of your own selection.  You can thus design the essay question on your own, along with referring to an outline as above.  See the Guidelines on Exam Two, which will be available just before the exam:

The Comparison-Contrast Essay will demonstrate a close reading and critical analysis of both the story that you select for the presentation and one other text: either one of the stories presented by the other students, another story in the 40 Short Stories anthology which we do not otherwise cover in class, or a film of your choice.  See the Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay for more detailed information:


Extra-Credit Opportunities

The many ways to receive extra credit include the following: 1] Response on a Short Story: the story must be located in the 40 Short Stories anthology, but not be assigned as reading for the course; you might compare and contrast it to some of the other stories that have been assigned and/or discuss the some of the literary techniques that the author employs; 2] Response on a Relevant Film or Contemporary Event: If you are reminded of issues addressed in this course outside of class, feel free to explore those thoughts more deeply in an extra-credit, 300-word response.  For instance, if some current event of especial interest to you seems uncannily reminiscent of the fiction covered in this course, you can write a response to build bridges between this class and your ordinary life; 3] Peer-Review of Another Student’s Final Essay: It would be a good idea to exchange papers with another student in the class to peer review his or her essay and have your own essay peer reviewed in return. See the Rubric on Peer Editing ( for guidelines on how to document your work.  It would be helpful to review this handout even if you do not plan to partake in peer review; 4] Response on the Conjectural Response: After I return the conjectural responses at the end of the term, you can write another 300-word response on that response, discussing the extent to which your expectations about fiction were (or were not) confirmed by the fiction that you read over the course of the semester, or how your appreciation and/or understanding of fiction has changed (or not changed) from the beginning to the end of the term.



Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion — rather than facts, figures, or memorization — attendance is crucial.  After four absences (or, in other words, after missing the equivalent of eight days of class for a regular term), your grade will start being reduced by a full letter grade: that is, the fifth class missed will turn a final grade of an A into a B; the sixth, an A into a C; and so on.  These four absences are for emergencies, so make sure to conserve them for the end of the term when you may become ill or have other extenuating circumstances.  If you are absent from class, contact another student from class to fill you in.  If you have fallen behind in the reading or have been absent for an extended amount of time, however, please feel free to come see me in my office hours so that I can help to get you back on schedule.  Leaving halfway through a class period or arriving halfway into one each count as half an absence.  Please do not distract other students by walking in or out of class unnecessarily, or by answering your cell phone or chitchatting during it.  There will be 10-minute breaks roughly midway through each class period when you can attend to personal business.  


Academic Integrity

Plagiarism is a very serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct.  Any plagiarized writing will automatically result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment, as well as in further disciplinary action from the Student Judicial Services if egregious.  The general rule is that if you use three or more words of another writer in a row without enclosing those words in quotation marks and acknowledging your source, you are guilty of plagiarism. 

See for more specific guidelines on plagiarism.  With the internet, plagiarism is easy and tempting to do; however, the internet also makes plagiarism that much more easy for professors to catch and document, so do not even think about doing it in this class or elsewhere.  **Note: turning a paper in that you wrote for another course for this course, i.e. recycling the same words for double credit, also constitutes academic dishonesty at EMU. 



Section One: The Elements of Fiction

Monday, July 3: Introduction to Course; Student Introductions; First-day Conjectural Responses/ Homework for 7/5: 1] Carefully read the syllabus and jot down any questions that you have; 2] Get books, especially the 40 Short Stories anthology that we will use first; 3] Read “Elements of Fiction: Part I” in the Electronic Reserves (ER), password 101:; 4] Read Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” in 40 Short Stories (SS), pg. 436-52; 5] Read Michael Herr, “Dispatches” (ER 200-8); 6] If you miss class, do the Conjectural Response (ER); 5] Make sure to bring copies of the materials to the next class, as well as to those that follow. [total pages: 33]

Wednesday, July 5: Continue Introduction to Fiction; Discuss O’Brien & Herr; In-Class Response; Groupwork/ Homework for 7/10: 1] Read “Elements of Fiction: Part II” (ER); 2] Review the discussion questions on Kate Chopin, “Story of an Hour,” and Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Yellow Wallpaper” (ER); 3] Read the Chopin and Gilman stories with the questions in mind (SS 63-65; 82-97); 4] Write a 300-word response (handwritten or typed) comparing and contrasting the narrator, point of view, and/or style of the Chopin and Gilman stories; 5] Recommended, but Optional: See the information about Chopin on the Bedford Companion Website (“VirtuaLit” & “Cultural Contexts” links): [35+]

Monday, July 10: Continue Elements of Fiction; Compare and Contrast Authors; Discuss Responses; Groupwork/ Homework for 7/12: 1] Read “Elements of Fiction: Part III” (ER); 2] Read “Analyzing Fiction” to review all of the elements of fiction (ER 1-21); 3] Read Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal” (SS 285-98), with some of the questions on pg. 20-1 in mind. [~38]

Wednesday, July 12: Conclude the Elements of Fiction; Begin Review for Exam One & Discuss Upcoming Presentation; In-Class Response & Debate; / Homework for 7/17: 1] Review the Guidelines on Exam One; 2] Review the Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay; 3] Read “Writing about Literature” (ER 738-47); 4] Read “Comparison: An Analytic Tool” (ER 49-52); 5] Read “Taking Essay Examinations” (ER 375-6); 6] Begin making the list of the three short stories from the anthology that you prefer to do for the presentation and essay (due July 19, but the sooner that you get it to me, the more likely you will be to get your first choice). [~16]

Monday, July 17: Conclude Review for Exam; Discuss Techniques for Presentation & Essay; Begin Watching Picture of Dorian Gray/ Homework for 7/19: 1] Make Outline and Prepare for Exam One; 2] Finish making the list of the three short stories from the anthology that you prefer to do for the presentation and essay (due July 19). [0]

Wednesday, July 19: **EXAM ONE** / Homework for 7/24: 1] Begin reading Oscar Wilde, Picture of Dorian Gray, pg. v-52; 2] Write a 300-word response (handwritten or typed) on the Wilde novel, considering its point of view, setting, characterization, theme, tone, imagery, symbolism, and/or any other element of fiction with which you have now become familiar; 3] Recommended, but Optional: Read “Fiction across Media” (ER 605-12). [52]

Section Two: The Elements Applied (Short Story Presentations and Dorian Gray)

Monday, July 24: Watch & Discuss Picture of Dorian Gray/ Homework for 7/26: 1] Continue reading Picture of Dorian Gray, pg. 52-86; 2] See the List of Group Assignments (; 3] Read (and re-read) the story that you have been assigned for the presentation (it is extremely important that you do this particular reading in a timely fashion, for there is no other way to make up the groupwork). [34+]

Wednesday, July 26: Groupwork on Short Stories; Continue Discussion of Wilde/ Homework for 7/31: 1] Read John Updike, “A & P” (SS 378-84); 2] Read Sherman Alexie, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” (SS 488-94); 3] Continue reading Picture of Dorian Gray, pg. 86-121. [~45]

Monday, July 31: Presentations of Groups 1 & 2; Discuss Updike, Alexie, & Wilde/ Homework for 8/2: 1] Read Yusuf Idris, “The Chair Carrier” (SS 449-53); 2] Finish Picture of Dorian Gray, pg. 122-65. [~45]

Wednesday, August 2: Presentation of Group 3; Discuss Idris; Conclude Discussion of Wilde/ Homework for 8/7: 1] Read Alice Walker, “Everyday Use” (SS 427-35); 2] Begin reading Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye, pg. 1-44. [~45]

Section Three: In-Depth Case Study (Presentations Continued and The Bluest Eye)

Monday, August 7: Presentation of Group 4; Discuss Walker & Morrison/ Homework for 8/9: 1] Read Amy Tan, “Two Kinds” (SS 468-78); 2] Continue reading The Bluest Eye, pg. 44-80. [~45]

Wednesday, August 9: Presentation of Group 5; Discuss Tan & Morrison/ Homework for 8/14: 1] Read Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” (SS 334-48); 2] Continue reading The Bluest Eye, pg. 81-121. [~45]

Monday, August 14: Presentation of Group 6; Discuss O’Connor & Morrison/ Homework for 8/16: 1] Read Gabriel García Márquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (SS 354-60); 2] Continue reading The Bluest Eye, pg. 121-63; 3] Write a 300-word response (handwritten or typed) on the Morrison novel, considering its point of view, setting, characterization, theme, tone, imagery, symbolism, and/or any other element of fiction with which you have now become familiar. [~45]

Wednesday, August 16: Presentation of Group 7; Discuss Márquez & Morrison/ Homework for 8/21: 1] Finish reading The Bluest Eye, pg. 164-206; 3] Review the Guidelines on Exam Two; 4] Review your Conjectural Response from the first day and write optional extra-credit response (see above). [~45]

Monday, August 21: Discuss Morrison; Discuss Conjectural Responses; Review for Exam Two/ Homework for 8/23: 1] Make Outline and Prepare for Exam Two.

Wednesday, August 23: **EXAM TWO** / Homework for 8/28: 1] Review the Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay; 2] Work on Four-Page Comparison-Contrast Essay (put it under my office door, Pray Harrold 603G, or in my mailbox, Pray Harrold 612, by the due date.)

Monday, August 28: **CRITICAL ESSAY DUE BY 10 AM**

[Syllabus last modified August 10, 2006]