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:

1.      John Updike, “A & P” (pg. 338-44)

2.      Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery” (pg. 272-80)

3.      Gabriel García Márquez, “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” (pg. 331-37)

4.      Naguib Mahfouz, “Zaabalawi” (pg. 247-57)

5.      Toni Cade Bambara, “The Lesson” (pg. 393-400)

6.      Amy Tan, “Two Kinds” (pg. 459-69)

7.      Alice Walker, “Everyday Use” (pg. 417-27)

8.      Cynthia Ozick, “The Shawl” (pg. 326-30)

You will need to pick the three stories that you are most interested in doing by October 12.  Most likely, you will get your first or second choice, depending on the popularity of the story and the speed with which you make your decision.  The sooner that you turn in the list of three stories, the more likely you will be to get your first choice.  You can make your selections long before the official due date, either by emailing the list (acoykenda at or by turning it in by hand. 

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 all of them for class 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 them the better.  You should likewise attend to the presentations of the other students, making connections between their stories and the one that you yourself are writing on, 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.  The Group Assignments handout (/groups.htm) will be posted online as soon as I begin receiving the lists of preferred stories.  Shortly 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 what you have learned in the first section to that specific story. 

It is extremely important to come to class on October 21.  Everyone in your group will have read the story by that date and come to class prepared to consult with each other about the 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 so little turnaround time between the preparation for the presentations and the presentations themselves. 

I will put the notes from the groupwork in the Electronic Reserves (ER) for everyone in the group to review, including those students who may have been absent.  The notes will clearly indicate which peer is responsible for which aspect of the presentation, so if you are ever unsure about what you will be doing, you can check the notes for clarification.  

Presentations: The presentations will be very relaxed and informal: the desks will be arranged in a large circle so that the entire group can present the findings without having to stand up or project voices uncomfortably.  Each member will have roughly 5 minutes to talk about one of the elements of fiction, showing how it pertains to the short story and then responding to questions from the class.  After the presentations, the class will divide into ad-hoc groups to confer about discussion questions that the group devised and then regroup to discuss them with the rest of the class.  The schedule for the presentations is as follows:

Group 1

John Updike

October 28

Group 2

Shirley Jackson

October 28

Group 3

Gabriel García Márquez

November 4

Group 4

Naguib Mahfouz

November 4

Group 5

Toni Cade Bambara

November 9

Group 6

Amy Tan

November 9

Group 7

Alice Walker

November 11

Group 8

Cynthia Ozick

November 11

The presentation will be worth 35 points, so it is important to attend class the day of your presentation.  Mark the date on the Schedule of the syllabus so that you remember come. 

Comparison-Contrast Essay: The 4-page Comparison Contrast Essay, which is worth 20% of your final grade, is due Wednesday, Dec. 2.  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 of the other stories 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 schedule online to be sure: /sched.htm).  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. 

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 should have no plot summary anywhere in the essay: 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 (SS 519-30), or review the handouts on writing covered before the first exam; namely, “Writing about Literature” (ER) and “Comparison: An Analytic Tool” (ER).  Several resources are available in the “Helpful Links” folder of the ER, including a Glossary of Literary Terms, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Roget’s Thesaurus, and Purdue’s On-Line Writing Handouts.  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. 

Submitting the Essay: No essays will be accepted that are too short or sent by email attachment.  The essay must be at least 4 properly formatted pages from beginning to end—that is, 1,320 words at the minimum—and submitted by the due date to the Turn It In website: (class #2839431; password “fiction”).  Make sure your essay has only 1-inch margins, 12-point, Times New Roman font, and double-spaced paragraphs (without any extra spacing, such as between paragraphs, after the title, or around your title and name) so that you know how long it really is.  

Extra-Credit: There will be a significant amount of extra credit if you go over the minimum length by writing six full pages properly formatted.  I will either drop an absence, should you have one too many, or increase your final grade by 3%.

Plagiarism: Essays that are plagiarized in any way and to any extent will receive no credit—that is, they will receive a grade of 0%—so a student who plagiarizes on this assignment will receive at most an 80% (or B-) in the class, supposing that s/he did everything else in the course perfectly.  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.  Do not reuse papers from previous classes, paste in another writer’s words from the internet, or use any ideas or expressions of other writers without citing them and giving credit for those ideas—taking credit for writings that you find on the internet, or recycling your own essays for double credit, are both forms of academic dishonesty.  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 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.