L204 2052 BOLZ
Introduction to Fiction

5:45p-7:00p TR (25) 3 CR.

This is a course that tries to make you a "better" reader of fiction and a "better" writer. Notice that this first sentence assumes that you are already a reader of fiction and already a writer. What does it mean to be a "better" reader? A better reader understands more, enjoys more, and feels more confident about reading a wider range of texts. How do you get better? By reading carefully, and talking and writing about what you have read. In order to encourage talking and writing, I will be introducing some questions and concepts, some familiar, some not. Some questions: What is a story? What makes a story seem "tellable"? How can you tell the difference between a true and a made-up story--or is this distinction not always clear? Why does it make a difference who tells the story? What kinds of inferences do we make when we read? And on the basis of what knowledge? How do we produce interpretations? How much depends upon what is "in" the text and how much depends upon what readers do with texts? How do we reconcile differences in interpretation? Some concepts we will explore will include narrative competence, narrator, plot, point of view, intertextuality, filling gaps in texts, closure, discourse, motifs and symbols.

All of these questions and terms make sense to English teachers and English majors. Although you may be neither one, I still hope that you will find these ideas useful as a framework for thinking about stories. This critical apparatus, however, is less important than the works of fiction themselves. L204, as a course, asks you to read a wide range of classic works which, when taken together, imply a brief history of fiction. So if the questions and concepts of the first paragraph seem too abstract, you can think about this course as an introduction to some important writers: Virginia Woolf, George Eliot, Henry James, James Joyce, Willa Cather, Ernest Hemingway, Kate Chopin, and Herman Melville. We will be reading a dozen pieces of short fiction from the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, as well as Chopin's The Awakening, James's Daisy Miller, and George Eliot's Middlemarch.

Finally, to return to the second goal announced in the first sentence, this course will try to help you become a better writer. I won't try to define what better writing is here, but I will try to do so in the course and in my responses to your writing assignments. Students can expect to write about 30 pages in ten required essays of various lengths.