Winter Term 2004

MWF 9:00-9:50, Business 1.09

Instructor: David S. Miall. Office: HC 4.27. Tel. 492-0538 David.Miall@Ualberta.Ca
Office hours: Mondays 10:15-12:00

Course web page:

This course will present the short story in an historical context. The main focus, however, will be on critical analyses of stories representing the diversity of this genre.

Text: Geddes, Gary (Ed.), The Art of Short Fiction: Brief Edition (Addison-Wesley, 1999)

Tentative schedule

January 5 Introductions. Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour" (1894), p. 73 (see below) Introduction
January 12 Edgar Allan Poe, "The Cask of Amontillado" (1846), p. 271
Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" (1891), p. 24

Poe: plot
Bierce: style

January 19 Joseph Conrad, "The Heart of Darkness" (1899), p. 77 Conrad, intro.; History, Racism; Conrad and Modernism
January 26 Conrad, projects  
February 2 Anton Chekhov, "The Lady with the Pet Dog" (1899), p. 59
-- "The Matter of Technique," p. 351
James Joyce, "Clay" (1914), p. 178
Chekhov: POV
February 9

Katherine Mansfield, "A Dill Pickle" (1920), p. 225
Virginia Woolf, "'Slater's Pins Have No Points'" (1928), p. 324
-- "Women and Fiction," p. 379

Mansfield and Woolf
Female writing? -- Mansfield
February 16 Reading Week  
February 23 D. H. Lawrence, "The Horse Dealer's Daughter" (1922), p. 204
Ernest Hemingway, "Hills Like White Elephants" (1927), p. 168
Essay due
March 1

Flannery O'Connor, "Good Country People" (1955), p. 246
-- "Writing Short Stories," p. 365
Theory of short story; project discussion

March 8 Alice Munro, "The Shining Houses" (1968), p. 232
-- "What is Real?" p. 362
Margaret Laurence, "The Loons" (1970), p. 195
March 15 Mavis Gallant, "Rue de Lille" (1979), p. 149
-- "What Is Style?" p. 356
Alistair MacLeod, "As Birds Bring Forth the Sun" (1986), p. 218
-- 'At the Moment,' p. 361
Gallant; students' notes
March 22 Thomas King, "Borders" (1991), p. 185
Project preparation time. Course evaluation
March 29 Project presentations Project guidelines
Project Schedule
April 5 Individual essays (500 words) and project materials due April 5
Project presentations, cont.
Project Report
April 22 9:00-11:00. Final examination Revision

Essay (due Feb 23). 2000 words -- 40%
Project paper (due April 5). 500 words -- 30% (15% project; 15% paper)
Examination (April 22) -- 30%

Essay topic

Discuss one of the stories by Poe, Bierce, Chekhov, Joyce, Mansfield, or Woolf, offering an interpretation that draws on style, point of view, narrator, or structure, as appropriate. (2000 words; be sure to keep to this limit within 100 words. Essays must be typed, double-spaced, with wide margins, and stapled in the top left corner; do not hand in the essay enclosed in a binder; don't forget your name!). Essay guidelines.

Project. Offer a theory of the short story, drawing for examples on several of the stories in The Art of Short Fiction. This will analyse the characteristics of the genre, placing it in a literary, historical, or cultural context. A project will normally be carried out by a group of four students who agree to collaborate. Work towards the project should probably begin after Reading Week (some time in class will be allowed for groups to discuss and plan). Groups will make presentations on their projects during the last week and a half of the term (posters, multimedia, etc.). Stories referred to may include any occurring in the course text, not just those studied in class. For a chronological list of stories in the anthology, see this Table.

The final exam on April 22 will cover material from the whole of the course. The exam will consist of two parts: Part 1 will contain questions about the individual stories or comparisons of two stories; Part 2 will contain questions about the theoretical and historical aspects of the stories. You will answer three questions, including one from each part.

Other requirements. Note that all course work must be completed prior to sitting the final exam, unless urgent medical or personal reasons are provided prior to the date on which the exam is held. You will not be able to make up a missed exam unless you provide a medical certificate or some other compelling personal reason for absence. Note that late submission of essays will not be accepted without urgent medical or personal reason. Essays must be handed to the instructor at the beginning of the class session at which they are due.

Kate Chopin, "The Story of an Hour" (1894)

1. Knowing that Mrs. Mallard was afflicted with a heart trouble, great care was taken to break to her as gently as possible the news of her husband's death.

2. It was her sister Josephine who told her, in broken sentences; veiled hints that revealed in half concealing. Her husband's friend Richards was there, too, near her. It was he who had been in the newspaper office when intelligence of the railroad disaster was received, with Brently Mallard's name leading the list of "killed." He had only taken the time to assure himself of its truth by a second telegram, and had hastened to forestall any less careful, less tender friend in bearing the sad message.

3. She did not hear the story as many women have heard the same, with a paralyzed inability to accept its significance. She wept at once, with sudden, wild abandonment, in her sister's arms. When the storm of grief had spent itself she went away to her room alone. She would have no one follow her.

4. There stood, facing the open window, a comfortable, roomy armchair. Into this she sank, pressed down by a physical exhaustion that haunted her body and seemed to reach into her soul.

5. She could see in the open square before her house the tops of trees that were all aquiver with the new spring life. The delicious breath of rain was in the air. In the street below a peddler was crying his wares. The notes of a distant song which some one was singing reached her faintly, and countless sparrows were twittering in the eaves.

6. There were patches of blue sky showing here and there through the clouds that had met and piled one above the other in the west facing her window.

7. She sat with her head thrown back upon the cushion of the chair, quite motionless, except when a sob came up into her throat and shook her, as a child who has cried itself to sleep continues to sob in its dreams.

8. She was young, with a fair, calm face, whose lines bespoke repression and even a certain strength. But now there was a dull stare in her eyes, whose gaze was fixed away off yonder on one of those patches of blue sky. It was not a glance of reflection, but rather indicated a suspension of intelligent thought.

9. There was something coming to her and she was waiting for it, fearfully. What was it? She did not know; it was too subtle and elusive to name. But she felt it, creeping out of the sky, reaching toward her through the sounds, the scents, the color that filled the air.

10. Now her bosom rose and fell tumultuously. She was beginning to recognize this thing that was approaching to possess her, and she was striving to beat it back with her will--as powerless as her two white slender hands would have been.

11. When she abandoned herself a little whispered word escaped her slightly parted lips. She said it over and over under her breath: "free, free, free!" The vacant stare and the look of terror that had followed it went from her eyes. They stayed keen and bright. Her pulses beat fast, and the coursing blood warmed and relaxed every inch of her body.

12. She did not stop to ask if it were or were not a monstrous joy that held her. A clear and exalted perception enabled her to dismiss the suggestion as trivial.

13. She knew that she would weep again when she saw the kind, tender hands folded in death; the face that had never looked save with love upon her, fixed and gray and dead. But she saw beyond that bitter moment a long procession of years to come that would belong to her absolutely. And she opened and spread her arms out to them in welcome.

14. There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.

15. And yet she had loved him--sometimes. Often she had not. What did it matter! What could love, the unsolved mystery, count for in face of this possession of self-assertion which she suddenly recognized as the strongest impulse of her being!

16. "Free! Body and soul free!" she kept whispering.

17. Josephine was kneeling before the closed door with her lips to the keyhole, imploring for admission. "Louise, open the door! I beg, open the door--you will make yourself ill. What are you doing Louise? For heaven's sake open the door."

18. "Go away. I am not making myself ill." No; she was drinking in a very elixir of life through that open window.

19. Her fancy was running riot along those days ahead of her. Spring days, and summer days, and all sorts of days that would be her own. She breathed a quick prayer that life might be long. It was only yesterday she had thought with a shudder that life might be long.

20. She arose at length and opened the door to her sister's importunities. There was a feverish triumph in her eyes, and she carried herself unwittingly like a goddess of Victory. She clasped her sister's waist, and together they descended the stairs. Richards stood waiting for them at the bottom.

21. Some one was opening the front door with a latchkey. It was Brently Mallard who entered, a little travel-stained, composedly carrying his grip-sack and umbrella. He had been far from the scene of accident, and did not even know there had been one. He stood amazed at Josephine's piercing cry; at Richards' quick motion to screen him from the view of his wife.

22. But Richards was too late.

23. When the doctors came they said she had died of heart disease--of joy that kills.

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Document created December 30th 2003 / revised April 6th 2004