English 201: Introduction to Fiction Syllabus

English 201: Introduction to Fiction
-Voice in Fiction-
University of Southern Mississippi
Fall 2013     Section: H001
Meets: T/TH 3:50-5:05   LAB 203

Instructor: Allison Tharp
Office Hours: T/Th 1:00-2:00
Office Location: LAB 336
Email: Allison.Tharp@eagles.usm.edu


  • Bausch, Richard and R.V. Cassill. The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction. 7th Edition. W.W. Norton & Company, 2006. ISBN: 9780393926118
  • Wharton, Edith. The House of Mirth. Mineola, New York: Dover Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN: 486420493
  • Regular access to the Internet to download and print materials placed on Blackboard, and to complete discussion responses
  • A notebook for in-class writing activities and note taking


The term “Introduction to Fiction” may seem daunting. After all, fiction, storytelling, and narrative have been around for a long time (The Epic of Gilgamesh—the oldest piece of narrative we have—is over 4,000 years old). Obviously, we will not be covering fiction and its various forms from the last 4,000 years, but this course will introduce students to various types of fiction in short stories and novels. In order to focus our study of fiction, we will approach this class through the theme and idea of voice, and ask certain questions as we go along:

  • What is voice in fiction?
  • How does voice function as a formal technique? How does it function as a theme?
  • What are the various voices within a piece?
  • How does history and context function as a voice?
  • What is the difference between a character’s voice, an author’s voice, a societal voice, and a reader’s voice?
  • What happens when voice is suppressed? Can it be suppressed?
  • How is voice connected to identity?

This course will also introduce students to the basic terms and techniques used when studying fiction. Through exploring a range of techniques and genres, and the broad theme of voice, this course allows students to become familiar with different ways of critically reading fiction in order to gain a better appreciation for fiction and develop critical ideas to use both in discussion and in writing.


After successful completion of this course, students should be able to:

  • improve critical reading (and therefore critical thinking) skills.
  • discuss a range of types of fiction.
  • discuss formal and thematic characteristics of short stories and novels.
  • gain an appreciation for good literary prose.
  • write critically about fiction and synthesize ideas from texts and class discussions into an organized, analytical essay.



Online Discussion Responses (15%)

  • The discussion responses are informal responses to your reading assignments. They are intended to help you develop ideas for class discussions and the larger paper. Prompts will be given at the beginning of a week, they are pass/fail, and you must post them on the Discussion Forum on Blackboard (no responses on midterm week, final week, and holiday weeks). To receive full credit, you should write at least 250 words demonstrating that you have not only read the assignment but that you have thought about it. The strongest journals will genuinely explore, question, and consider the works we are reading. The journal should not be a summary of the reading material. You are required to complete 10 journal prompts, 1% each; the remaining 5% of this grade will come from thoughtful responses to your classmates’ posts. Aim to comment on at least 20 posts over the course of the semester—1/2 a percentage point each.

Paper 1 (15%)

  • You will write one 3-5 page paper that analyzes a text of your choice that we are studying this semester. The paper will engage in close reading to prove an argumentative thesis.

Paper 2 (25%)

  • A longer paper (7-10 pages) that makes an argument regarding voice by using two texts of your choice that we are studying this semester. The paper should adhere to MLA formatting guidelines and include a Works Cited page.

Midterm (10%)

  • The midterm will be an in-class exam consisting of short answer and identification questions.

Final (20%)

  • The final will be an in-class exam consisting of short answer and identification questions, as well as a short essay. The final will only cover material assigned in class after the midterm.

Participation and quizzes (15%)

  • You are expected to contribute to class discussions; participate in group work, etc. Participation points will be taken off for excessive tardies, excessive texting while in class, using your computer/other electronic device for non-class related purposes, sleeping in class, completing work for another class, or not staying on task. There will be 10 unannounced quizzes throughout the semester to determine your completion of reading assignments. Quizzes cannot be made up, and will normally be given at the beginning of class—so don’t be late!


A         90-100
B          80-89
C          70-79
D         60-69
F          59 and below


You are expected to complete the assigned reading before coming to class on the day the work is listed. In addition to completing all reading and writing assignments, preparing for class means being ready to discuss and intelligently question issues raised by the material. This does not mean, however, that you must master the material. On the contrary, it is perfectly reasonable that you may be confused by some readings the first time we encounter them. But, in such cases, you should be prepared to discuss what you found puzzling, aggravating, thought-provoking, engaging, or difficult about the assignment. In other words, if you feel you have nothing to state about a piece of writing, you should actively develop a list of questions about it. There is really no such thing as a stupid question, provided that you ask it in the spirit of honest inquiry.


The framework of this course—with its emphasis on class discussion—demands that you attend class regularly. Failure to complete in-class work, such as in-class assignments and group discussions, will result in the lowering of your grade. Indeed, no in-class activities (including quizzes) may be made up due to tardiness or absence, and students who accumulate more than THREE absences over the course of the semester will automatically have their final grades lowered by a letter grade for each absence. More than SIX absences in a semester will result in your failing the course. THERE IS NO LEEWAY ON THIS.

Note: If you miss half of the class time, you will be counted absent for that day. Excessive tardies will result in the loss of participation points.


Late work will only be accepted if you can demonstrate that you have encountered a valid obstacle before the deadline (i.e., that you’ve been working on the project in good faith, but have run into some problems). If you feel you may be unable to complete an assignment on time, you should contact me as soon as possible, but no later than two days before the due date. After reviewing all the work you’ve done on the assignment, we will set a new deadline together.

If you wake up the morning of class and find yourself suddenly unable to attend and an assignment is due that day, you may email it to me to prove that you completed it on time, and you must email it before class starts (i.e. before 3:50 P.M.). All assignments must either be pasted in the email directly or attached as a Microsoft Word document. HOWEVER, you must submit a hard copy of the assignment to me by the next class period or you will receive a zero for the assignment. In all other cases, no papers submitted electronically will be accepted, and work magically appearing in my mailbox without a prior agreement with me will also be considered late.


Unless specified otherwise, the use of portable electronic devices (such as cell-phones, MP3 players, laptops, etc.) is prohibited in class, and such devices should be turned off and placed in your bag and/or out of sight. Students who flagrantly use such devices in class without permission may be asked to leave and/or may be considered absent for attendance purposes. Or, I’ll answer your phone. Or, you’ll have to bring lunch for the entire class the next class period if your phone goes off—and there are 40 people in this class. That’s a lot of food.


All members of the academic community at the University of Southern Mississippi are expected to take responsibility for academic honesty and integrity. Plagiarism—the willful copying/presenting of another person’s work as if it was your own—and other forms of cheating are unacceptable. The penalties for such behavior can include failure of the course and, in some cases, even expulsion from the university. Also note that self-plagiarism (i.e. submitting work you have completed for other classes) will also be treated as academic fraud. If you have any doubts about what constitutes plagiarism, please refer to your student handbook, to USM policies on Academic Honesty, or come talk to me.


If a student has a disability that qualifies under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and requires accommodations, he/she should contact the Office for Disability Accommodations (ODA) for information on appropriate policies and procedures. Disabilities covered by ADA may include learning, psychiatric, physical disabilities, or chronic health disorders. Students can contact ODA if they are not certain whether a medical condition/disability qualifies.

The University of Southern Mississippi
Office for Disability Accommodations
118 College Drive # 8586
Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001
Voice Telephone: 601.266.5024 or 228. 214.3232 Fax: 601. 266.6035
Individuals with hearing impairments can contact ODA using the Mississippi Relay Service at 1.800.582.2233 (TTY) or e-mail Suzy Hebert at Suzanne.Hebert@usm.edu.


The Writing Center is a free resource available to all student writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. It offers one-on-one help with any kind of writing project, at any stage of the writing process. The Writing Center is located in Cook Library 112. The Writing Center will play an important role in the design of this course. For more information, and hours of operation, you may contact The Writing Center at 601-266-4821, or visit the website at: http://www.usm.edu/writingcenter/.


To access the online components of this course, you must first go to https://usm.blackboard.com, then follow the log-in instructions. You will need to have your EMPLID and password (the same information you use to access SOAR and register for classes). If you have any questions or run into difficulty accessing the Blackboard material for this course, please call the iTech Help Desk at 601-266-4357 or helpdesk@usm.edu. You can also get specific instructions on how to use components of Blackboard by visiting www.usm.edu/elo.


Note: Course assignments and readings are subject to change at the instructor’s discretion.
BB: reading assignment on Blackboard
NA: Norton Anthology


Week One

Thursday 8/22—Introduction to the course; What is voice?

Week Two: The Short Story—Voice

Tuesday 8/27— “Royal Beatings” by Alice Munro (NA)
“Cathedral” by Raymond Carver (NA)

Thursday 8/29—“King of the Bingo Game” by Ralph Ellison (NA)

Week Three: Structure/Style

Wed., Sept. 4: Last day to drop and receive 100% financial credit

Tuesday 9/3—“Recitatif” by Toni Morrison (BB)

Thursday 9/5—“Hills Like White Elephants” by Ernest Hemingway (NA)

Week Four: Setting

Tuesday 9/10— “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson (NA)

Thursday 9/12—“I Want to Know Why” by Sherwood Anderson (NA)

Week Five: Characterization—Psychology in Literature

Tuesday 9/17— “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce (NA)

Thursday 9/19— “The Tell-Tale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe (BB)
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (NA)

Week Six: The Novella

Tuesday 9/24— Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (NA)

Thursday 9/26— Heart of Darkness, cont.

Week Seven

Wed., Oct. 2nd: Last day to drop without academic penalty

Tuesday 10/1— Watch “Apocalypse Now”

Thursday 10/3—workshop paper

Week Eight

Tuesday 10/8— Paper 1 DUE; Cont. “Apocalypse Now”; Review for Midterm

Thursday 10/10—Midterm



Week Nine:

Tuesday 10/15— Passing by Nella Larsen (BB)

Thursday 10/17—NO CLASS—FALL BREAK!

Week Ten

Tuesday 10/22— Passing cont.

Thursday 10/24— House of Mirth, by Edith Wharton

Week Eleven

Tuesday 10/29— House of Mirth, cont.

Thursday 10/31— House of Mirth, cont.

Week Twelve

Tuesday 11/5—House of Mirth, cont.

Thursday 11/7— House of Mirth, cont.

Week Thirteen

Tuesday 11/12— “The Metamorphosis,” by Franz Kafka (NA)

Thursday 11/14— “The Metamorphosis” cont.

Week Fourteen

Tuesday 11/19— Paper workshop

Thursday 11/21—Paper workshop

Week Fifteen

Tuesday 11/26— NO CLASS Last day to withdraw/process an add-drop slip


Week Sixteen:

Tuesday 12/3—Final Paper due; Review for Final Exam

Thursday 12/5—Review for Final Exam

Exam Week

Final Exam—TBA



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