Introduction to Short Fiction Comparative Literature 135 Professor Karen Elizabeth Bishop 195: 135: 03 Spring 2013 T/Th 10 30 Rutgers University hh-a5 cac

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Introduction to Short Fiction

Comparative Literature 135
Professor Karen Elizabeth Bishop 195:135:03

Spring 2013 T/Th 1.10-2.30

Rutgers University HH-A5 CAC

A book ought to be an icepick to break up the frozen sea within us.

– Franz Kafka

Course Overview

This introductory comparative literature course looks at the form, function and history of short fiction. We’ll consider how the novella, the short story, and flash fiction work with an eye to identifying the literary devices and narrative structures that make for good storytelling in a short amount of space. In addition to investigating how some of the major authors of Western literature construct their short fiction, we’ll ask what short narrative achieves that longer forms do not and what kind of fictional worlds these condensed genres give us access to. We will situate the works we read within their corresponding historical moments and literary traditions, so that students will leave the class able to recognize the fundamental components of fiction and analyze how they work, as well as knowledgeable in the preoccupations and cultural contexts that shape the history of Western literature from Romanticism to Postmodernism.


Leo Tolstoy, The Death of Ivan Ilyich (Russia; 1886)

Thomas Mann, Death in Venice (Germany; 1912)

Georges Perec, Things: A Story of the Sixties (France; 1965)

Gabriel García Márquez, Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Colombia; 1981)
Short Stories

E.T.A Hoffmann, “The Sandman” (Germany; 1817)

Guy de Maupassant, “The Necklace” (France; 1884)

Ambrose Bierce, “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (US; 1890)

Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour” (US; 1894)

Franz Kafka, “In the Penal Colony” (Germany; 1919)

Virginia Woolf, “A Haunted House” (UK; 1921)

William Faulkner, “A Rose for Emily” (US; 1930)

Ernest Hemingway, “A Very Short Story” (1924) and “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place” (1933) (US)

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths” (1941) and “Death and the Compass” (1944) (Argentina)

Julio Cortázar, “Continuity of Parks” and “Axolotl” (Argentina; 1956)

Tillie Olson, “O Yes” (US; 1961)

Flannery O’Connor, “Everything that Rises Must Converge” (US; 1965)

Gabriel García Márquez, “One of These Days” (1962) and “The Most Beautiful Drowned Man in the World”

(1968) (Colombia)

Bharati Mukherjee, “The Management of Grief” (India; 1988)

Jhumpa Lahiri, “Sexy” (India/US; 1998)

Junot Díaz, “Drown” and “Edison, New Jersey” (US; 1996)

Jhumpa Lahiri, “Sexy” (India/US; 1998)

ZZ Packer, “Brownies” and “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” (US; 2003)

George Saunders, “The Semplica-Girl Diaries” (US; 2012)
Flash Fiction

selections to include: Carolyn Forde, “Sashimi Cashmere”; Alison Townsend, “The Barbie Birthday”; Hannah Bottomy, “Currents”; Kim Church, “Bullet”; John Biguenet, “Rose”; Leigh Allison Wilson, “Bullhead”; John Updike, “Oliver’s Evolution”; Dan Kaplan, “Bill”; Tom Hazuka, “I Didn’t Do That”; Pamela Painter, “Toasters”

On Fiction, On Writing

Edgar Allan Poe,” The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale” (1842)

Edgar Allan Poe, “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846)

Guy de Maupassant, “The Writer’s Goal” (1888)

Edith Wharton, “Every Subject Must Contain within Itself Its Own Dimensions” (1925)

Flannery O’Connor, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction” (1969)

Course Requirements and Grade Breakdown

participation: 10%

weekly reading quizzes: 10%

midterm exam: 25%

3-pp short textual analysis: 15%

6-pp final paper: 40%

extra credit assignment: an original work of flash fiction (750 words or less)

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