Guidelines on the Presentation and Essay

Overview: For your presentation and comparison-contrast essay, you will be responsible for one of the following stories in the 40 Short Stories anthology:

Group 1:   John Updike, “A & P”           

Group 2:   Junot Diaz, “Drown” 

Group 3:   Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”

Group 4:   Amy Tan, “Two Kinds”

Group 5:   Sherman Alexie, “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”

Group 6:   Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?”

Group 7:   Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”

Group 8:   Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried” 

You need to pick three stories that you are most interested in doing for the presentation and essay by February 19. Once you make your selection, email your list of three stories (in order) to

Selecting the Three Stories: A good way to begin is by reviewing the biography of the authors at the back of the anthology, and then surveying the first and final paragraphs of the story to see if it intrigues you. You might also want to read a select portion of the stories in their entirety—you will eventually have to read each of these stories for Exam II anyway.

Since the essay will compare and contrast the story that you ultimately select with another story, and quite possibly one of the other stories listed above, the more familiarity that you have with all of them the better. You should thus closely attend to the presentations of the other students, making connections between their stories and the one about which you yourself are writing to generate ideas for the essay.

Groupwork: You will be placed in a group with four or five of your peers who have selected the same story. A few weeks after the first exam (and thus after you become conversant in the elements of fiction), you will begin working in collaboration with your group members to present your story to the class, applying the elements of fiction that you have learned in the first section of class to that specific story. 

It is extremely important to come to class for the groupwork on March 5. Everyone in your group will have read the story by that date and be prepared to consult about the various issues that it raises. Together the group will compose discussion questions for the rest of the class to address once the story is assigned and then divvy up the various facets of the class presentation among group members. You will need to be there to ensure that you present on the topics that you find most interesting about the story; moreover, if you are absent, the only way to make up the 20 points for the groupwork is by doing extra credit. Groups 1 and 2 should be especially careful to attend this class period because there will be very little turnaround time between the preparation for the presentations and the presentations themselves

I will email the notes taken that day for to the members of the group for review, including students who may have been absent. The notes will clearly indicate which peer is responsible for which aspect of the presentation. If you are unsure about what you will be doing, you can simply check the notes for clarification.

Presentations: The presentations will be very relaxed and informal. Each member will have roughly 5 minutes to talk about one of the elements of fiction, showing how it operates in the short story and then responding to questions from the class. After the presentations, the class will divide into ad-hoc groups to confer on the discussion questions that the group earlier devised; then regroup to discuss the findings with the rest of the class. The presentation is worth 30 points, so it is important to attend class the day that it is scheduledThe schedule is as follows:

Group 1

John Updike, “A & P”

March 10

Group 2

Junot Diaz, “Drown”    

Group 3

Alice Walker, “Everyday Use”

March 12

Group 4

Amy Tan, “Two Kinds”

Group 5

Sherman Alexie “The Lone Ranger”

March 17

Group 6

Joyce Carol Oates, “Where Are You Going”

Group 7

Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”

March 19

Group 8

Tim O’Brien “The Things They Carried”

Comparison-Contrast Essay: The 5-page Comparison-Contrast Essay is worth 20% of your final grade, and is due April 16. In it, you will offer a close reading and critical analysis of the story that you covered for the presentation as well as one other story: either one of the stories listed above or any other story in the 40 Short Stories anthology, so long as it is not otherwise covered in class and you have read it on your own initiative (search the course schedule online to be sure: We will discuss how to do a comparison-contrast analysis throughout the term, so you will be comfortable with the format before you even begin to write the essay. 

No essays will be accepted that are too short. The essay must be at least 5 properly formatted pages from beginning to end—that is, 1,500 words at the minimum—and submitted by the due date, April 16, both by email and as a hard copy. 

There will be a significant amount of extra credit if you go over the minimum length by writing seven full pages, or 2,100 words. I will either drop an absence, should you have one too many, or increase your final grade by 3%.

Composing the Essay: This essay, unlike the in-class essays on the exams, must be polished and well written, so make sure to finish a draft early to give yourself time to review, revise, and perhaps re-conceptualize it. The essay must demonstrate critical thinking about the stories and offer unique interpretations of them that you have come up with on your own. The paper must have no plot summary: assume that your readers are already familiar with the various characters and events, just not well versed in the specific details that you are using to support your argument. The thesis (at the bottom of the introductory paragraph), as well as the topic sentences (the first sentences of the paragraphs that follow, excluding the last), should each express arguments with which other intelligent readers can disagree, but about which they become persuaded by reading further into your essay. The concluding paragraph does not simply repeat what you have already said earlier in the essay; rather, it should explain the larger implications and importance of your argument once proven, make explicit the purpose or other applications of your thesis, and enlarge the focus of year analysis from the specific stories that you have been analyzing to the real world beyond.

Help with the Writing: Consider using the questions at the end of the “Analyzing Fiction” handout to brainstorm possible ideas for the essay, as well as the discussion questions handed out during the class presentations. You can consult the “Writing about Short Stories” chapter at the end of the anthology, or review the handouts on writing covered before the first exam. You can also come to my office for help, and I will give you 10 points extra credit for the visit (supposing that it is your first). You might consider taking advantage of the Academic Projects Center, which assists with research, writing, and technology skills; it is located in Halle (Room 104) and open from 11:00-5:00 Monday-Thursday. Another support center, the International Student Resource Center (200 Alexander, 487-0370), is dedicated to second-language students from abroad. 

Plagiarism: You must acknowledge when you make use of the concepts and/or expressions of other people without ANY exception under ANY circumstance, whether it be by drawing on Wikipedia for mundane (and possibly specious) information or 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”). 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.

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