online syllabus:


electronic reserves:
(password 101)

bedford web companion:

class handouts:

halle library website:

~ schedule ~


Literature 101:  Reading of Fiction

Introduction to Fiction


winter 2008

Dr. Abby Coykendall

acoykenda at

Office: Pray-Harrold Hall 603G
Phone: 734-487-0147 (messages only)
Hours: MW 12:15-12:45; M 3:15-6:45; W 3:15-3:45

~ or email for an appointment ~

Section 002; Registration #21977
Monday & Wednesday 11:00-12:15 PM
Pray Harrold Hall 306

Course Description:  Reading of 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 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 world in which we all live.

Course Objectives:

By the end of the semester, 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. 

Required Texts:

The following books are available at Ned’s (; 483-6400; 707 W. Cross).  Additional copies may be available at other bookstores.  Make sure to get the same edition pictured below (double check the ISBN number, a fingerprint of sorts for the book).

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

J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (Back Bay Books, 2001; ISBN #0316769177)

Toni Morrison, Sula (Vintage, 2004; ISBN #1400033438)

Some materials will be located online in the Electronic Reserves (ER): (password 101).  You can print them for free at any of the computer labs on campus.

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


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.  The more actively you participate, the more the course content will reflect your unique needs and interests.  As with any university course, you can expect the homework to take around two hours for every unit of class or, in other words, six hours each week. 

See the Assignments, Exams, and Extra-Credit Opportunities handout 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 Question)

Monday, February 4


Four-Page Comparison-Contrast Essay (On two short stories from the anthology, including the one covered in the presentation)

Monday, March 31


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

Friday, April 25 (11:00-12:30)


Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion—rather than facts, figures, or memorization—attendance is crucial.  After five absences, your final grade will start being reduced by one third.  That is, the sixth class missed will turn a final grade of an A into an A-; the seventh, into a B+; and so on.  If you have more than eight absences, you will no longer be able to pass the class. 

There is no need to explain or excuse absences, for I will always assume that you have an excellent reason to miss class.  However, make sure to save some of the five allowable absences for the end of the term when you might become ill or have other extenuating circumstances.

Lateness and Classroom Etiquette:

Do not distract your peers by coming in late, exiting the room, answering your cell phone, whispering to your neighbors, or packing your items up before the class is actually over.  Once class starts, turn off your cell phone, and then walk in or out of the room only if there is a genuine emergency.  Leaving halfway through a class period or arriving halfway into one each count as half an absence, and it is your responsibility to ensure that you have not been marked absent because you were late. 

Refrain from talking with other students during class time: simply raise your hand and bring the concerns that you have to the attention of the entire class (the other students will likely have the same questions anyway).  Most importantly, make sure to listen to your fellow students with the same respect and attention that you want to receive when you yourself are speaking. 

Academic Integrity:

Plagiarism is an extremely serious offense against the Code of Student Conduct.  Any plagiarized writing or cheating on the exams will automatically result in a failing, zero-percent grade for the assignment, as well as in further disciplinary action 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.   


Section One: The Elements of Fiction

Monday, January 7: Overview of Course; Student Introductions; Conjectural Responses/Homework: 1) Carefully read the syllabus and jot down any questions that you have; 2) Read “Elements of Fiction: Part I” and Kurt Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeson” in the Electronic Reserves [ER], password 101:

Wednesday, January 9: Introduction to Fiction; Discuss Vonnegut/Homework: 1) Get textbooks, especially 40 Short Stories which we will use first; 2) Read “Elements of Fiction: Part II” [ER]; 3) Read Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” in 40 Short Stories [SS], pg. 436-52; 4) Review the Assignments, Exams, and Extra-Credit handout; 5) If you missed the first class, make up the Conjectural Response [ER].

Monday, January 14: Continue Elements of Fiction; Compare/Contrast Stories/Homework: 1) Read “Elements of Fiction: Part III” [ER]; 2) Review discussion questions on Kate Chopin, “Story of an Hour” [ER]; 3) Read the Chopin story with the questions in mind [SS 63-65]; 4) Recommended, but Optional: read about Chopin on the Bedford Website (“VirtuaLit” & “Cultural Contexts” links).

Wednesday, January 16: Conclude the Elements of Fiction; Discuss Chopin/Homework: 1) Review the discussion questions on Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “Yellow Wallpaper” [ER]; 2) Read the Gilman story with the questions in mind [SS 82-97]; 3) Read “Comparison: An Analytic Tool” [ER 49-52]; 4) Write a 250-word response (handwritten or typed) comparing and contrasting the narrator, point of view, and/or style of the Chopin and Gilman stories.

Monday, January 21: NO CLASS (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day)

Wednesday, January 23: Discuss Gilman and Responses/Homework: 1) Read “Analyzing Fiction” to review the elements of fiction [ER 1-21]; 2) Read Ralph Ellison, “Battle Royal” [SS 285-98] with one question on pg. 20-1 in mind; 3) Take notes and be prepared to discuss the question in class.

Monday, January 28: Discuss Ellison and Questions//Homework: 1) Review the Guidelines on Exam One; 2) Read “Writing about Literature” [ER 738-47]; 3) Read “Taking Essay Examinations” [ER 375-6].

Wednesday, January 30: Review for Exam One/Homework: 1) Get Blue Books, Make Outline, and Prepare for Exam One.

Monday, February 4: **EXAM ONE**/Homework: 1) Read “Fiction across Media” [ER 605-12]; 2) Review the Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay; 3) Begin making the list of three short stories from the anthology that you most prefer to do for the presentation and essay (the list is due Feb. 11, but the sooner that you get it to me, the more likely you will be to get your first choice).

Section Two: The Elements Applied (Short Story Presentations and Film Adaptation)

Wednesday, February 6: Discuss Presentations & Film Adaptation; Begin Brokeback Mountain/Homework: 1) Finish making the list of the three short stories from the anthology that you prefer to do for the presentation and essay; 2) Read Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” [ER 1-26]; 3) If you miss class, watch the first hour of the film on your own (on reserve at the Halle library).

Monday, February 11: Finish Brokeback Mountain/Homework: 1) Write a 250-word response (handwritten or typed) comparing and contrasting the two versions of Brokeback Mountain, considering point of view, setting, characterization, theme, tone, imagery, symbolism, or any other element of fiction with which you have become familiar; 2) If you miss class, watch the rest of the film on your own (on reserve at the Halle library).

Wednesday, February 13: Discuss Responses to Brokeback Mountain/Homework: 1) See the List of Group Assignments; 2) Read (and re-read) the story that you have been assigned for the presentation; ** Note: coming to class Feb. 18 prepared to discuss the story is very important since groupwork points can be made up only by doing extra credit.

Monday, February 18: **GROUPWORK**/Homework: 1) Read John Updike, “A & P” [SS 378-84]; 2) Read Sherman Alexie, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven” [SS 488-94].

Wednesday, February 20: Presentations of Groups 1 & 2; Discuss Updike & Alexie/Homework: 1) Read Flannery O’Connor, “Everything That Rises Must Converge” [SS 334-48]; 2) Read Amy Tan, “Two Kinds” [SS 468-78]; 3) Optional: write a 250-word extra-credit response comparing/contrasting the Tan story with the film The Joy Luck Club.

Monday, February 25-27: NO CLASS (Winter Recess)

Monday, March 3: Presentations of Groups 3 & 4; Discuss O’Connor & Tan/Homework: 1) Read Yusuf Idris, “The Chair Carrier” [SS 449-53]; 2) Read Gabriel García Márquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” [SS 354-60].

Wednesday, March 5: Presentations of Groups 5 & 6; Discuss Idris & Márquez/Homework: 1) Read Tillie Olsen, “I Stand Here Ironing” [SS 277-84]; 2) Read Alice Walker, “Everyday Use” [SS 427-35]; 3) Optional: write a 250-word extra-credit response comparing/contrasting the Walker story with the film The Color Purple (on reserve at the Halle library).

Monday, March 10: Presentations of Groups 7 & 8; Discuss Olsen & Walker/Homework: 1) Review the Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay; 2) Review “Writing about Literature” [ER 738-47]; 3) Begin identifying the topic and second story that you will discuss in the Comparison-Contrast Essay.

Wednesday, March 12: Discuss Essays; Groupwork/Homework: 1) Write an introduction (with a thesis statement) and an outline (with at least three arguments for three different paragraphs) for the Comparison-Contrast Essay; 2) Read “Background on J. D. Salinger” [ER]; 3) Begin reading Catcher in the Rye, pg. 3-45.

Section Three: In-Depth Case Study on the Novel (Catcher in the Rye and Sula)

Monday, March 17: Discuss Outlines & Salinger/Homework: 1) Continue Catcher in the Rye, pg. 45-85; 2) Make a list of three recurring symbols, images, and/or paradoxes and be prepared to share them in class.

Wednesday, March 19: Discuss Salinger/Homework: 1) Continue Catcher in the Rye, pg. 85-135; 2) Write down one good discussion question for your peers about the last section of the novel and be prepared to write an in-class response on one of their own questions in turn; 3) Continue working on the Comparison-Contrast Essay (due Mar. 31).

Monday, March 24: Discuss Salinger; In-Class Responses/Homework: 1) Continue Catcher in the Rye, pg. 135-75; 2) Write down two passages from the novel that stand out to you and that relate to each other in some way, a passage early in the book and another towards the end of our reading, and be prepared to discuss them in class; 3) Finish the Comparison-Contrast Essay (due Mar. 31).

Wednesday, March 26: NO CLASS (ASECS Conference)

Monday, March 31: **ESSAYS DUE**/Homework: 1) Continue Catcher in the Rye, pg. 175-215.

Wednesday, April 2: Discuss Salinger/Homework:  1) Finish Catcher in the Rye, pg. 215-77; 2) Write a 250-word response (handwritten or typed) on the Salinger novel, considering its point of view, setting, characterization, theme, tone, imagery, symbolism, and/or any other element of fiction with which you have become familiar.

Monday, April 7: Conclude Salinger; Discuss Responses/Homework: 1) Begin reading Toni Morrison, Sula, pg. 3-45.

Wednesday, April 9: Discuss Morrison/Homework: 1) Continue Sula, pg. 45-95; 2) Review your conjectural response from the first day of class and write an optional extra-credit response (see Assignments handout for explanation).

Monday, April 14: Course Retrospect; Discuss Morrison/Homework: 1) Continue Sula, pg. 95-135; 2) Make a list of four comparisons or contrasts between Sula and The Catcher in the Rye.

Wednesday, April 16: Discuss Morrison; Brainstorm Topics for Exam Essay/Homework: 1) Finish reading Sula, pg. 135-174; 2) Review the Guidelines on Exam Two; 3) Make Outline for Exam.

Monday, April 21: Discuss Morrison, Review for Exam Two, & Workshop Outlines/Homework: 1) Get Blue Books, Revise Outline, and Prepare for Exam.

Friday, April 25 (11:00-12:30): **EXAM TWO**



List of Links:

·     Course Syllabus   (

·     Course Schedule   ( w08/#schedule)

·     Electronic Reserves   (

·     Bedford Companion Website   (

·     Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay   (

·     List of Group Assignments   (

·     Assignments, Exams, and Extra-Credit   (

·     Guidelines on Exam One   (

·     Guidelines on Exam Two   (

·     Rubric on Peer Editing   (

·     Code of Student Conduct   (

·     Guidelines on Plagiarism   (


 [Syllabus last modified January 7, 2008]