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350-500 words

This week, you will once again consider TWO readings, with a focus on character and point of view.

Write one paragraph for each story, considering some of the points raised in this week’s lecture: who is telling this story? How does the point of view shape that telling? What characters are in this story, and what are their motivations? How are these motivations shaped by forces like gender, race, and/or class, and where does conflict occur? You might also consider some of the word choices used to reveal character and what these connotative meanings have to offer.

You may use any of the guiding questions from this week’s PowerPoint and/or Dr. Celena Kusch’s 5 theoretical questions from “A Basic Guide to Literary Theory” as a framework.

《orientation》 《her favorite story》

Orientation – by Daniel Orozco

Those are the offices and these are the cubicles. That!s my cubicle there, and this is
your cubicle. This is your phone. Never answer your phone. Let the Voicemail System
answer it. This is your Voicemail System Manual. There are no personal phone calls al-
lowed. We do, however, allow for emergencies. If you must make an emergency phone
call, ask your supervisor first. If you can!t find your supervisor, ask Phillip Spiers, who
sits over there. He!ll check with Clarissa Nicks, who sits over there. If you make an
emergency phone call without asking, you may be let go.

These are your IN and OUT boxes. All the forms in your IN box must be logged in by the
date shown in the upper left-hand corner, initialed by you in the upper right-hand corner,
and distributed to the Processing Analyst whose name is numerically coded in the lower
left-hand corner. The lower right-hand corner is left blank. Here!s your Processing Ana-
lyst Numerical Code Index. And here!s your Forms Processing Procedures Manual.

You must pace your work. What do I mean? I!m glad you asked that. We pace our work
according to the eight-hour workday. If you have twelve hours of work in your IN box, for
example, you must compress that work into the eight-hour day. If you have one hour of
work in your IN box, you must expand that work to fill the eight-hour day. That was a
good question. Feel free to ask questions. Ask too many questions, however, and you
may be let go.

That is our receptionist. She is a temp. We go through receptionists here. They quit with
alarming frequency. Be polite and civil to the temps. Learn their names, and invite them
to lunch occasionally. But don!t get close to them, as it only makes it more difficult when
they leave. And they always leave. You can be sure of that.
The men!s room is over there. The women!s room is over there. John LaFountaine, who
sits over there, uses the women!s room occasionally. He says it is accidental. We know
better, but we let it pass. John LeFountaine is harmless, his forays into the forbidden
territory of the women!s room simply a benign thrill, a faint blip on the dull flat line of his

Russell Nash, who sits in the cubicle to your left, is in love with Amanda Pierce, who sits
in the cubicle to your right. They ride the same bus together after work. For Amanda
Pierce, it is just a tedious bus ride made less tedious by the idle nattering of Russell
Nash. But for Russell Nash, it is the highlight of his day. It is the highlight of his life.
Russell Nash has put on forty pounds, and grows fatter with each passing month, nib-
bling on chips and cookies while peeking glumly over the partitions at Amanda Pierce,
and gorging himself at home on cold pizza and ice cream while watching adult videos
on TV.
Amanda Pierce, in the cubicle to your right, has a six-year-old son named Jamie, who is
autistic. Her cubicle is plastered from top to bottom with the boy!s crayon artwork – sheet
after sheet of precisely drawn concentric circles and ellipses, in black and yellow. She
rotates them every other Friday. Be sure to comment on them.

Amanda Pierce, who tolerates Russell Nash, is in love with Albert Bosch, whose office
is over there. Albert Bosch, who only dimly registers Amanda Pierce!s existence, has
eyes only for Ellie Tapper, who sits over there. Ellie Tapper, who hates Albert Bosch,
would walk through fire for Curtis Lance. But Curtis Lance hates Ellie Tapper. Isn!t the
world a funny place? Not in the ha-ha sense, of course.
Anika Bloom sits in that cubicle. Last year, while reviewing quarterly reports in a meet-
ing with Barry Hacker, Anika Bloom!s left palm began to bleed. She fell into a trance,
stared into her hand, and told Barry Hacker when and how his wife would die. We
laughed it off. She was, after all, a new employee. But Barry Hacker!s wife is dead. So
unless you want to know exactly when and how you!ll die, never talk to Anika Bloom.

Colin Heavey sits in that cubicle over there. He was new once, just like you. We warned
him about Anika Bloom. But at last year!s Christmas Potluck, he felt sorry for her when
he saw that no one was talking to her. Colin Heavey bought her a drink. He hasn!t been
himself since. Colin Heavey is doomed. There!s nothing he can do about it, and we are
powerless to help him. Stay away from Colin Heavey. Never give any of your work to
him. If he asks to do something, tell him you have to check with me. If he asks again,
tell him I haven!t gotten back to you.
This is the Fire Exit. There are several on this floor, and they are marked accordingly.
We have a Floor Evacuation Review every three months, and an Escape Route Quiz
once a month. We have our Biannual fire Drill twice a year, and our Annual Earthquake
Drill once a year. These are precautions only. These things never happen.

For your information, we have a comprehensive health plan. Any catastrophic illness,
any unforeseen tragedy is completely covered. All dependents are completely covered.
Larry Bagdikian, who sits over there, has six daughters. If anything were to happen to
any of his girls, or to all of them, if all six were to simultaneously fall victim to illness or
injury – stricken witha hideous degenerative muscle disease or some rare toxic blood
disorder, sprayed with semiautomatic gunfire while on a class field trip, or attacked in
their bunk beds by some prowling nocturnal lunatic – if any of this were to pass, Larry!s
girls would all be taken care of. Larry Bagdikian would not have to pay one dime. He
would have nothing to worry about.

We also have a generous vacation and sick leave policy. We have an excellent disability
insurance plan. We have a stable and profitable pension fund. We get group discounts
for the symphony, and block seating at the ballpark. We get commuter ticket books for
the bridge. We have Direct Deposit. We are all members of Costco.

This is our kitchenette. And this, this is our Mr. Coffee. We have a coffee pool, into wich
we each pay two dollars a week for coffee, filters, sugar, and CoffeeMate. If you prefer
Cremora or half-and-half to CoffeeMate, there is a special pool for three dollars a week.
If you prefer Sweet!n Low to sugar, theree is a special pool for two-fifty a week. We do
not do decaf. You are allowed to join the coffee pool of your choice, but you are not al-
lowed to touch the Mr. Coffee.

This is the microwave oven. You are allowed to heat food in the microwave oven. You
are not, however, allowed to cook food in the microwave oven.

We get one hour for lunch. We also get one fifteen-minute break in the morning, and
one fifteen-minute break in the afternoon. Always take your breaks. If you skip a break,
it is gone forever. For your information, your break is a privelige, not a right. If you abuse
the break policy, we are authorized to rescind your breaks. Lunch, however, is a right,
not a privelige. If you abuse the lunch policy, our hands will be tied, and we will be
forced to look the other way. We will not enjoy that.

This is the refrigerator. You may put your lunch in it. Barry Hacker, who sits over there,
steals food from this refrigerator. His petty theft is an outlet for his grief. Last New Year!s
Eve, while kissing his wife, a blood vessel burst in her brain. Barry Hacker!s wife was
two months pregnant at the time, and lingered in a coma for half a year before dying. It
was a tragic loss for Barry Hacker. He hasn!t been himself since. Barry Hacker!s wife
was a beautiful woman. She was also completely covered. Barry Hacker did not have to
pay one dime But his dead wife haunts him. She haunts all of us. We have seen her,
reflected in the monitors of our computers, moving past our cubicles. We have seen the
dim shadow of her face in our photocopies. She pencils herself in in the receptionist!s
appointment book, with the notation: To see Barry Hacker. She has left messages in the
receptionist!s Voicemail box, messages garbled by the electronic chirrups and buzzes in
the phone line, her voice echoing from an immense distance within the ambient hum.
But the voice is hers. And beneath the voice, beneath the tidal whoosh of static and
hiss, the gurgling and crying of a baby can be heard.

In any case, if you bring a lunch, put a little something extra in the bag for Barry Hacker.
We have four Barrys in this office. Isn!t that a coincidence?

This is Matthew Payne!s office. He is our Unit Manager, and his door is always closed.
We have never seen him, and you will never see him. But he is there. You can be sure
of that. He is all around us.

This is the Custodian!s Closet. You have no business in the Custodian!s Closet.

And this, this is our Supplies Cabinet. If you need supplies, see Curtis Lance. He will log
you in on the Supplies Cabinet Authorization Log, then give you a Supplies Authoriza-
tion Slip. Present your pink copy of the Supplies Authorization Slip to Ellie Tapper. She
will log you in on the Supplies Cabinet Key Log, then give you the key. Because the
Supplies Cabinet is located outside the Unit Manager!s office, you must be very quiet.
Gather your supplies quietly. The Supplies Cabinet is divided into four sections. Section
One contains letterhead stationery, blank paper and envelopes, memo and note pads,
and so on. Section Two contains pens and pencils and typewriter and printer ribbons,
and the like. In Section Three we have erasers, correction fluids, transparent tapes, glue
sticks, et cetera. And in Section Four we have paper clips and push pins and scissors
and razor blades. And here are the spare blades for the shredder. Do not touch the
shredder, which is located over there. The shredder is of no concern to you.

Gwendolyn Stich sits in that office there. She is crazy about penguins, and collects pen-
guin knickknacks: penguin posters and coffee mugs and stationery, penguin stuffed
animals, penguin jewelry, penguin sweaters and T-shirts and socks. She has a pair of
penguin fuzzy slippers she wears when working late at the office. She has a tape cas-
sette of penguin sounds which she listens to for relaxation. Her favorite colors are black
and white. She has personalized license plates that read PEN GWEN. Every morning,
she passes through all the cubicles to wish each of us a good morning. She brings Dan-
ish on Wednesdays for Hump Day morning break, and doughnuts on Fridays for TGIF
afternoon break. She organizes the Annual Christmas Potluck, and is in charge of the
Birthday List. Gwendolyn Stich!s door is always open to all of us. She will always lend
an ear, and put in a good word for you; she will always give you a hand, or the shirt off
her back, or a shoulder to cry on. Because her door is always open, she hides and cries
in a stall in teh women!s room. And John LaFountaine – who, enthralled when a woman
enters, sits quietly in his stall with his knees to his chest – John LaFountaine has heard
her vomiting in there. We have come upon Gwendolyn Stich huddled in the stairwell,
shivering in the updraft, sipping a Diet Mr. Pibb and hugging her knees. She does not let
any of this interfere with her work. If it interfered with her work, she might have to be let

Kevin Howard sits in that cubicle over there. He is a serial killer, the one they call the
Carpet Cutter, responsible for the mutilations across town. We!re not supposed to know
that, so do not let on. Don!t worry. His compulsion inflicts itself on strangers only, and
the routine established is elaborate and unwavering. The victim must be a white male, a
young adult no older than thirty, heavyset, with dark hair and eyes, and the like. The vic-
tim must be chosen at random before sunset, from a public place; the victim is followed
home, and must put up a struggle; et cetera. The carnage inflicted is precise: the angle
and direction of the incisions; the layering of skin and muscle tissue; the rearrangement
of visceral organs; and so on. Kevin Howard does not let any of this interfere with his
work. He is, in fact, our fastest typist. He types as if he were on fire. He has a secret
crush on Gwendoly Stich, and leaves a red-foil-wrapped Hershey!s Kiss on her desk
every afternoon. But he hates Anika Bloom, and keeps well away from her. In his pres-
ence, she has uncontrollable fits of shaking and trembling. Her left palm does not stop

In any case, when Kevin Howard gets caught, act surprised. Say that he seemed like a
nice person, a bit of a loner, perhaps, but always quiet and polite.

This is the photocopier room. And this, this is our view. It faces southwest. West is down
there, toward the water. North is back there. Because we are on the seventeenth floor,
we are afforded a magnificent view. Isn!t it beautiful? It overlooks the park, where the
tops of those trees are. You can see a segment of the bay between those two buildings
over there. You can see the sun set in the gap between those two buildings over there.
You can see this building reflected in the glass panels of that building across the way.
There. See? That!s you, waving. And look there. There!s Anika Bloom in the kitchenette,
waving back.

Enjoy this view while photocopying. If you have problems with the photocopier, see
Russell Nash. If you have any questions, ask your supervisor. If you can!t find your su-
pervisor, ask Phillip Spiers. He sits over there. He!ll check with Clarissa Nicks. She sits
over there. If you can!t find them, feel free to ask me. That!s my cubicle. I sit in there.

The Necklace

BY Guy de Maupassant

She was one of those pretty and charming girls born, as though fate had blundered over her, into a family of
artisans. She had no marriage portion, no expectations, no means of getting known, understood, loved, and wedded

by a man of wealth and distinction; and she let herself be married off to a little clerk in the Ministry of Education. Her

tastes were simple because she had never been able to afford any other, but she was as unhappy as though she had

married beneath her; for women have no caste or class, their beauty, grace, and charm serving them for birth or

family, their natural delicacy, their instinctive elegance, their nimbleness of wit, are their only mark of rank, and put

the slum girl on a level with the highest lady in the land.

She suffered endlessly, feeling herself born for every delicacy and luxury. She suffered from the poorness of her

house, from its mean walls, worn chairs, and ugly curtains. All these things, of which other women of her class would

not even have been aware, tormented and insulted her. The sight of the little Breton girl who came to do the work in

her little house aroused heart-broken regrets and hopeless dreams in her mind. She imagined silent antechambers,

heavy with Oriental tapestries, lit by torches in lofty bronze sockets, with two tall footmen in knee-breeches sleeping

in large arm-chairs, overcome by the heavy warmth of the stove. She imagined vast saloons hung with antique silks,

exquisite pieces of furniture supporting priceless ornaments, and small, charming, perfumed rooms, created just for

little parties of intimate friends, men who were famous and sought after, whose homage roused every other woman’s

envious longings.

When she sat down for dinner at the round table covered with a three-days-old cloth, opposite her husband, who

took the cover off the soup-tureen, exclaiming delightedly: “Aha! Scotch broth! What could be better?” she imagined

delicate meals, gleaming silver, tapestries peopling the walls with folk of a past age and strange birds in faery forests;

she imagined delicate food served in marvellous dishes, murmured gallantries, listened to with an inscrutable smile as

one trifled with the rosy flesh of trout or wings of asparagus chicken.

She had no clothes, no jewels, nothing. And these were the only things she loved; she felt that she was made for

them. She had longed so eagerly to charm, to be desired, to be wildly attractive and sought after.

She had a rich friend, an old school friend whom she refused to visit, because she suffered so keenly when she

returned home. She would weep whole days, with grief, regret, despair, and misery.


One evening her husband came home with an exultant air, holding a large envelope in his hand.

“Here’s something for you,” he said.

Swiftly she tore the paper and drew out a printed card on which were these words:

“The Minister of Education and Madame Ramponneau request the pleasure of the company of Monsieur and

Madame Loisel at the Ministry on the evening of Monday, January the 18th.”

Instead of being delighted, as her husband hoped, she flung the invitation petulantly across the table, murmuring:

“What do you want me to do with this?”

“Why, darling, I thought you’d be pleased. You never go out, and this is a great occasion. I had tremendous

trouble to get it. Every one wants one; it’s very select, and very few go to the clerks. You’ll see all the really big

people there.”

She looked at him out of furious eyes, and said impatiently: “And what do you suppose I am to wear at such an


He had not thought about it; he stammered:

“Why, the dress you go to the theatre in. It looks very nice, to me . . .”

He stopped, stupefied and utterly at a loss when he saw that his wife was beginning to cry. Two large tears ran

slowly down from the corners of her eyes towards the corners of her mouth.

“What’s the matter with you? What’s the matter with you?” he faltered.

But with a violent effort she overcame her grief and replied in a calm voice, wiping her wet cheeks:

“Nothing. Only I haven’t a dress and so I can’t go to this party. Give your invitation to some friend of yours whose

wife will be turned out better than I shall.”

He was heart-broken.

“Look here, Mathilde,” he persisted. “What would be the cost of a suitable dress, which you could use on other

occasions as well, something very simple?”

She thought for several seconds, reckoning up prices and also wondering for how large a sum she could ask

without bringing upon herself an immediate refusal and an exclamation of horror from the careful-minded clerk.

At last she replied with some hesitation:

“I don’t know exactly, but I think I could do it on four hundred francs.”

He grew slightly pale, for this was exactly the amount he had been saving for a gun, intending to get a little

shooting next summer on the plain of Nanterre with some friends who went lark-shooting there on Sundays.

Nevertheless he said: “Very well. I’ll give you four hundred francs. But try and get a really nice dress with the


The day of the party drew near, and Madame Loisel seemed sad, uneasy and anxious. Her dress was ready,

however. One evening her husband said to her:

“What’s the matter with you? You’ve been very odd for the last three days.”

“I’m utterly miserable at not having any jewels, not a single stone, to wear,” she replied. “I shall look absolutely

no one. I would almost rather not go to the party.”

“Wear flowers,” he said. “They’re very smart at this time of the year. For ten francs you could get two or three

gorgeous roses.”

She was not convinced.

“No . . . there’s nothing so humiliating as looking poor in the middle of a lot of rich women.”

“How stupid you are!” exclaimed her husband. “Go and see Madame Forestier and ask her to lend you some

jewels. You know her quite well enough for that.”

She uttered a cry of delight.

“That’s true. I never thought of it.”

Next day she went to see her friend and told her her trouble.

Madame Forestier went to her dressing-table, took up a large box, brought it to Madame Loisel, opened it, and


“Choose, my dear.”

First she saw some bracelets, then a pearl necklace, then a Venetian cross in gold and gems, of exquisite

workmanship. She tried the effect of the jewels before the mirror, hesitating, unable to make up her mind to leave

them, to give them up. She kept on asking:

“Haven’t you anything else?”

“Yes. Look for yourself. I don’t know what you would like best.”

Suddenly she discovered, in a black satin case, a superb diamond necklace; her heart began to beat covetously.

Her hands trembled as she lifted it. She fastened it round her neck, upon her high dress, and remained in ecstasy at

sight of herself.

Then, with hesitation, she asked in anguish:

“Could you lend me this, just this alone?”

“Yes, of course.”

She flung herself on her friend’s breast, embraced her frenziedly, and went away with her treasure. The day of the

party arrived. Madame Loisel was a success. She was the prettiest woman present, elegant, graceful, smiling, and

quite above herself with happiness. All the men stared at her, inquired her name, and asked to be introduced to her.

All the Under-Secretaries of State were eager to waltz with her. The Minister noticed her.

She danced madly, ecstatically, drunk with pleasure, with no thought for anything, in the triumph of her beauty, in

the pride of her success, in a cloud of happiness made up of this universal homage and admiration, of the desires she

had aroused, of the completeness of a victory so dear to her feminine heart.

She left about four o’clock in the morning. Since midnight her husband had been dozing in a deserted little room,

in company with three other men whose wives were having a good time. He threw over her shoulders the garments

he had brought for them to go home in, modest everyday clothes, whose poverty clashed with the beauty of the ball-

dress. She was conscious of this and was anxious to hurry away, so that she should not be noticed by the other

women putting on their costly furs.

Loisel restrained her.

“Wait a little. You’ll catch cold in the open. I’m going to fetch a cab.”

But she did not listen to him and rapidly descended the staircase. When they were out in the street they could not

find a cab; they began to look for one, shouting at the drivers whom they saw passing in the distance.

They walked down towards the Seine, desperate and shivering. At last they found on the quay one of those old

nightprowling carriages which are only to be seen in Paris after dark, as though they were ashamed of their

shabbiness in the daylight.

It brought them to their door in the Rue des Martyrs, and sadly they walked up to their own apartment. It was the

end, for her. As for him, he was thinking that he must be at the office at ten.

She took off the garments in which she had wrapped her shoulders, so as to see herself in all her glory before the

mirror. But suddenly she uttered a cry. The necklace was no longer round her neck!

“What’s the matter with you?” asked her husband, already half undressed.

She turned towards him in the utmost distress.

“I . . . I . . . I’ve no longer got Madame Forestier’s necklace. . . .”

He started with astonishment.

“What! . . . Impossible!”

They searched in the folds of her dress, in the folds of the coat, in the pockets, everywhere. They could not find it.

“Are you sure that you still had it on when you came away from the ball?” he asked.

“Yes, I touched it in the hall at the Ministry.”

“But if you had lost it in the street, we should have heard it fall.”

“Yes. Probably we should. Did you take the number of the cab?”

“No. You didn’t notice it, did you?”


They stared at one another, dumbfounded. At last Loisel put on his clothes again.

“I’ll go over all the ground we walked,” he said, “and see if I can’t find it.”

And he went out. She remained in her evening clothes, lacking strength to get into bed, huddled on a chair,

without volition or power of thought.

Her husband returned about seven. He had found nothing.

He went to the police station, to the newspapers, to offer a reward, to the cab companies, everywhere that a ray

of hope impelled him.

She waited all day long, in the same state of bewilderment at this fearful catastrophe.

Loisel came home at night, his face lined and pale; he had discovered nothing.

“You must write to your friend,” he said, “and tell her that you’ve broken the clasp of her necklace and are getting

it mended. That will give us time to look about us.”

She wrote at his dictation.


By the end of a week they had lost all hope.

Loisel, who had aged five years, declared:

“We must see about replacing the diamonds.”

Next day they took the box which had held the necklace and went to the jewellers whose name was inside. He

consulted his books.

“It was not I who sold this necklace, Madame; I must have merely supplied the clasp.”

Then they went from jeweller to jeweller, searching for another necklace like the first, consulting their memories,

both ill with remorse and anguish of mind.

In a shop at the Palais-Royal they found a string of diamonds which seemed to them exactly like the one they

were looking for. It was worth forty thousand francs. They were allowed to have it for thirty-six thousand.

They begged the jeweller not to sell it for three days. And they arranged matters on the understanding that it

would be taken back for thirty-four thousand francs, if the first one were found before the end of February.

Loisel possessed eighteen thousand francs left to him by his father. He intended to borrow the rest.

He did borrow it, getting a thousand from one man, five hundred from another, five louis here, three louis there.

He gave notes of hand, entered into ruinous agreements, did business with usurers and the whole tribe of money-

lenders. He mortgaged the whole remaining years of his existence, risked his signature without even knowing if he

could honour it, and, appalled at the agonising face of the future, at the black misery about to fall upon him, at the

prospect of every possible physical privation and moral torture, he went to get the new necklace and put down upon

the jeweller’s counter thirty-six thousand francs.

When Madame Loisel took back the necklace to Madame Forestier, the latter said to her in a chilly voice:

“You ought to have brought it back sooner; I might have needed it.”

She did not, as her friend had feared, open the case. If she had noticed the substitution, what would she have

thought? What would she have said? Would she not have taken her for a thief?


Madame Loisel came to know the ghastly life of abject poverty. From the very first she played her part heroically. This

fearful debt must be paid off. She would pay it. The servant was dismissed. They changed their flat; they took a

garret under the roof.

She came to know the heavy work of the house, the hateful duties of the kitchen. She washed the plates, wearing

out her pink nails on the coarse pottery and the bottoms of pans. She washed the dirty linen, the shirts and dish-

cloths, and hung them out to dry on a string; every morning she took the dustbin down into the street and carried up

the water, stopping on each landing to get her breath. And, clad like a poor woman, she went to the fruiterer, to the

grocer, to the butcher, a basket on her arm, haggling, insulted, fighting for every wretched halfpenny of her money.

Every month notes had to be paid off, others renewed, time gained.

Her husband worked in the evenings at putting straight a merchant’s accounts, and often at night he did copying

at twopence-halfpenny a page.

And this life lasted ten years.

At the end of ten years everything was paid off, everything, the usurer’s charges and the accumulation of

superimposed interest.

Madame Loisel looked old now. She had become like all the other strong, hard, coarse women of poor households.

Her hair was badly done, her skirts were awry, her hands were red. She spoke in a shrill voice, and the water slopped

all over the floor when she scrubbed it. But sometimes, when her husband was at the office, she sat down by the

window and thought of that evening long ago, of the ball at which she had been so beautiful and so much admired.

What would have happened if she had never lost those jewels. Who knows? Who knows? How strange life is, how

fickle! How little is needed to ruin or to save!

One Sunday, as she had gone for a walk along the Champs-Elysees to freshen herself after the labours of the

week, she caught sight suddenly of a woman who was taking a child out for a walk. It was Madame Forestier, still

young, still beautiful, still attractive.

Madame Loisel was conscious of some emotion. Should she speak to her? Yes, certainly. And now that she had

paid, she would tell her all. Why not?

She went up to her. “Good morning, Jeanne.”

The other did not recognise her, and was surprised at being thus familiarly addressed by a poor woman. “But . . .

Madame . . .” she stammered. “I don’t know . . . you must be making a mistake.”

“No . . . I am Mathilde Loisel.”

Her friend uttered a cry. “Oh! . . . my poor Mathilde, how you have changed! . . .”

“Yes, I’ve had some hard times since I saw you last; and many sorrows . . . and all on your account.”

“On my account! . . . How was that?”

“You remember the diamond necklace you lent me for the ball at the Ministry?”

“Yes. Well?”

“Well, I lost it.”

“How could you? Why, you brought it back.”

“I brought you another one just like it. And for the last ten years we have been paying for it. You realise it wasn’t

easy for us; we had no money. . . . Well, it’s paid for at last, and I’m glad indeed.”

Madame Forestier had halted. “You say you bought a diamond necklace to replace mine?”

“Yes. You hadn’t noticed it? They were very much alike.” And she smiled in proud and innocent happiness.

Madame Forestier, deeply moved, took her two hands. “Oh, my poor Mathilde! But mine was imitation. It was

worth at the very most five hundred francs! . . . ”


Developed by Dr. Celena E. Kusch, USC Upstate, Fall 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative

Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.

A Guide to Basic Literary Theory: What Every English Major Should Know

What distinguishes an English major from a casual reader? English majors and other advanced students of

the field of English studies recognize and pay particular attention to the way that language affects

meaning. Where a casual or practical reader reads the surface of a text to understand the basic content and

to find the immediately obvious meaning communicated in any text, a student of English studies looks

deeper. English majors identify and explore the multiple effects, influences, and implied meanings created

by the particular way language is used.

If you have ever had a heated conversation with a friend or family member, you know that language does

not always convey transparently exactly what we are thinking, and even the most innocently intended

comment can be interpreted differently by audiences who notice different connotations in the choice of

words. English majors study the way that meaning is created in that exchange between writers/speakers,

readers/listeners, and the complexity of language itself. We use literary theory to help us uncover and

make sense of those subtle, below-the-surface effects of language.

Literary theory does not mean making hypotheses or

guesses about literature. In the field of English studies (and

most academic disciplines), theory refers to the study of the

underlying assumptions we make about the nature of

language, authors, readers, texts, human subjectivity,

narrative, aesthetics, power, culture, and other major elements

of literary production and reception. The practical application

of these theories emerges in literary criticism, where we

make concrete arguments often supported by close readings

of textual details about the way our underlying assumptions

play out in a particular text or texts.

Literary theory includes schools of thought and a set of often abstract and philosophical writings that help

us decide how we want to approach a text based on our definitions of literature and its function in the


 Is literature about culture, society, differences among different groups of people?

 Is it about the beauty of language, the imagination, authorship and originality, or the creation of

word-based art? Is it about status, elitism, high culture, belles lettres, or just plain self-expression

in its most democratic and egalitarian sense?

 Is it about the possibilities or failures of communication or representation through language?

 Is it about the human psyche and what it reveals or hides with words? Is it about identity and the

representation of characters as a key to figuring out what it is to be human?

 Is it about history—either making it, reflecting it, or reshaping it?

Literary theorists write books and articles that give us useful terminology for explaining these concepts

that are embedded deep within the literature we read. The following list identifies key theoretical

questions, theories, and theorists who may help you explain and refine the underlying assumptions you


Developed by Dr. Celena E. Kusch, USC Upstate, Fall 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative

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already make when reading and analyzing literature. Use these broad definitions of literary theories to

help guide your own deeper research into those theoretical questions that are most meaningful to you.

Combining theories and drawing connections across theoretical schools and major concepts is a common

way for today’s critics to add their own contribution to the critical conversation.

Theoretical Question 1: Is literature fundamentally about culture, society, and

differences among different groups of people?
Major Theoretical Concepts:

 Challenging assumptions about human

differences, especially those relating to gender

and sexuality, race, ethnicity, and nationality

 Overturning social hierarchies and redefining

human differences as an effect of cultural

practices and power dynamics, not intellectual,

physical, or other innate limitations

 Exposing the ways that literature of the past has

depended upon inequalities to produce literary

genres and establish cultural and social power

 Promoting literature of resistance that gives

voice to diverse cultural positions to better

align literature with political justice and

cultural truth

Examples of Theorists and Theoretical Movements/Schools

 Feminist literary theory, including Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own (1929), Simone de

Beauvoir’s The Second Sex (1953), Elaine Showalter’s A Literature of Their Own: British Women

Novelists from Brontë to Lessing (1977), and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s The Madwoman in

the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literary Imagination (1979)

 Gender theory and queer theory, including bell hooks’s Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center

(1984), Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire

(1985), and Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990)

 Theories of African diasporic Négritude and African American studies, including W.E.B.

DuBois’s The Souls of Black Folk (1903), Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Artist and the Racial

Mountain” (1926), Aimé Césaire’s Notebook of a Return to the Native Land (1939), Gloria T. Hull,

Patricia Bell Scott, and Barbara Smith’s But Some of Us Are Brave: Black Women’s Studies (1982),

Henry Louis Gates’s “Writing ‘Race’ and the Difference It Makes” (1985), Barbara Christian’s Black

Feminist Criticism: Perspectives on Black Women Writers (1985), Paul Gilroy’s The Black Atlantic


 Theories of mestizaje and multiethnic studies, including Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La

Frontera: The New Mestiza (1987), Arnold Krupat’s The Voice in the Margin: Native American

Literature and the Canon (1989), Shirley Geok-lin Lim and Amy Ling’s Reading the Literatures of

Asian America (1992)


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 Theories of intersectionality and critical race theory: Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw’s Critical

Race Theory: The Key Writings that Formed the Movement (1995), and Richard Delgado and Jean

Stefanic’s Critical Race Theory: An Introduction (2001)

 Postcolonial theory, including Frantz Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks (1952) and The Wretched of

the Earth (1961), Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), Gayatri Spivak’s “Can the Subaltern Speak”

(1988), Kwame Anthony Appiah’s In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture (1992),

and Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture (1994)

Theoretical Question 2: Is literature about the beauty of language, the

imagination, authorship and originality, or the creation of word-based art? Is

it about status, elitism, high culture, belles lettres, or just plain self-expression

in its most democratic and egalitarian sense?
Major Theoretical Concepts:

 Defining structures, genres, formal

characteristics, moral and didactic purposes,

and various functions and effects of literary


 Distinguishing the “literary” from everything

else due to its “nobility” or its

“defamiliarization” of normal language (esp.

important to theorists in the school of Russian


 Exploring the nature of inspiration, genius,

originality, and authorship

 Considering the relationship between authors,

language, society, and the texts they produce,

especially through concepts like the author-

function and intertextuality

 Focusing on the ways that formal elements of literature create a coherent meaning that is deeper and

more profound than everyday language could express (esp. important in New Criticism).

 Rethinking and questioning divisions between elite or “high-brow” literature and popular culture

texts, such as television, film and popular culture

Examples of Theorists and Theoretical Movements/Schools

 Classical literary theory, such as Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BCE)

 Longinus’s On the Sublime (1st century CE)

 Renaissance theories like Sir Philip Sidney’s “An Apology for Poetry” (1595)

 Neoclassical literary theory, including John Dryden’s An Essay of Dramatick Poesie (1668) or

Alexander Pope’s An Essay on Criticism (1711)

 Romanticism, including William Wordsworth’s preface to Lyrical Ballads with Other Poems (1800)

and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s “Defense of Poetry” (1821)

 Matthew Arnold’s Essays in Criticism (1865)

Figure 1 By © Jorge Royan /, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Developed by Dr. Celena E. Kusch, USC Upstate, Fall 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative

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 New Criticism, including Cleanth Brook’s The Well Wrought Urn (1947) and John Crowe Ransom’s

The New Criticism (1941)

 Practical Criticism, including F. R. Leavis’s For Continuity (1933) and I. A. Richards’s Principles

of Literary Criticism (1924)

 Formalism or Russian Formalism, including Viktor Shklovsky’s Theory of Prose (1925) and

Vladimir Propp’s Morphology of the Folktale (1928)

 Narratology, including Gérard Genette’s Narrative Discourse: An Essay in Method (1967-70 in

French, 1980 in English) and Tzvetan Todorov’s The Poetics of Prose (1971)

 Structuralism, including Claude Lévi-Strauss’s Structural Anthropology (1958, translated 1963) and

The Raw and the Cooked (1964, translated in 1969), as well as Roland Barthes’s “An Introduction to

a Structural Analysis of Narrative” (1975)

 Post-structuralism, including Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author” (1967) and From Work to

Text (1971), Michel Foucault’s “What Is an Author? (1969), and Julia Kristeva’s Desire in Language:

A Semiotic Approach to Literature and Art (1980)

 Cultural Studies, including Stuart Hall’s Encoding and Decoding in the Television Discourse (1973)

and “Cultural Studies: Two Paradigms” (1980)

Theoretical Question 3: Is literature about the possibilities or failures of

communication or representation through language?
Major Theoretical Concepts:

 Debating the differences and similarities between words and the things themselves, the “real” world

and the world of the text

 Understanding the relationship between

word and meaning, symbol systems, the

signifier of meaning and the thing

signified, often through the field of


 Understanding the workings of various

signs, texts, or other representations of

meaning through culture or language

(esp. in theories of semiotics)

 Questioning the arbitrary nature of

meaning within language and exposing

the ways in which meaning seeps out of

and slips away from the words used to

represent it as well as the ways in which

all human knowledge is caught inside of

the imperfect language used to express it

(there is nothing outside the text), esp. in the theory of deconstruction.

Examples of Theorists and Theoretical Movements/Schools:

 Classicism, including concepts of imitation and mimesis in Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 335 BCE) and

Plato’s Republic (c. 380 BCE)

Figure 2 By User:MatthiasKabel – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


Developed by Dr. Celena E. Kusch, USC Upstate, Fall 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative

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 Structuralism, including Ferdinand de Saussure’s Course in General Linguistics (1916)

 Semiotics, including Roland Barthes Mythologies (1972)

 Deconstruction, including Jacques Derrida’s Writing and Difference (1978)

 Reader-response Criticism, including Stanley Fish’s Is There a Text in This Class? The Authority of

Interpretive Communities (1980)

Theoretical Question 4: Is literature about the human psyche and what it

reveals or hides with words? Is literature about the nature of identity and the

representation of characters as keys to figuring out what it means to be

Major Theoretical Concepts:

 Exploring the fundamental nature of identity, the

mind, the body, and the self, especially as it relates

to authors, readers, and invented or real characters.

 Analyzing the relationship between words and the

unconscious fears, desires, and concerns of the

people who attempt to express themselves in


 Exploring the effects of constructing the subject as

“normal” in exclusive and exclusionary ways

Examples of Theorists and Theoretical


 Psychoanalytic criticism, include Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (1913)

 Poststructuralist psychoanalytic theory, including Jacques Lacan’s Écrits (1977)

 Feminist psychoanalytic theory, including Julia Kristeva’s Desire in Language: A Semiotic

Approach to Literature and Art (1980), Hélène Cixous’s “The Laugh of the Medusa” (1976), and

Luce Irigaray’s Speculum of the Other Woman (1985)

 Disability studies, best exemplified by the essays in L. J. Davis’s The Disabilities Studies Reader


Theoretical Question 5: Is literature about history—either making it,

reflecting it, or reshaping it?
Major Theoretical Concepts:

 Understanding the individual as a subject who can act within

larger social structures, but who is also subjected to the

definitions and expectations of economic and political


 Defining literature as one of many cultural institutions that

interact with the political and economic power of the time

and that narrate the relationship between individuals and the


Developed by Dr. Celena E. Kusch, USC Upstate, Fall 2016. This work is licensed under a Creative

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institutions of power in the world

 Untangling the ways in which literature is both shaped by and shapes history, sometimes resisting

mainstream values and sometimes reinforcing those values.

Examples of Theorists and Theoretical Movements/Schools:

 Marxist theory, including Georg Lukács’s The Theory of the Novel (1971), Frederic Jameson’s

Marxism and Form (1971), Terry Eagleton’s Marxism and Literary Criticism (1976), and Pierre

Macherey’s A Theory of Literary Production (1978)

 New Historicism, including Stephen Greenblatt’s Renaissance Self-fashioning (1980), Louis

Montrose’s “‘Shaping Fantasies’: Figurations of Gender and Power in Elizabethan Culture” (1983),

and Catherine Gallagher and Stephen Greenblatt’s Practicing New Historicism (2000)

 Cultural Materialism, including Raymond Williams’s Culture and Society 1780-1950 (1958),

Catherine Belsey’s The Subject of

Tragedy: Identity and Difference in

Renaissance Drama (1985), Andrew

Milner’s Re-imagining Cultural

Studies: The Promise of Cultural

Materialism (2002)

 Ideology theory, including Louis

Althusser’s Lenin and Philosophy,

and Other Essays (1971) and Slavoj

Žižek’s The Sublime Object of

Ideology (1989)

 Discourse theories, including

Michel Foucault’s The Archaeology

of Knowledge and the Discourse on

Language (1972)

 Ecocriticism, Dark Ecology, and

Posthumanism, including Cheryll

Glotfelty and Harold Fromm The Ecocriticism Reader: Landmarks in Literary Ecology (1996),

Richard Kerridge and Neil Sammels’s Writing the Environment: Ecocriticism and Literature 1998,

Timothy Morton’s Ecology without Nature (2007) and The Ecological Thought (2010), and Cary

Wolfe What Is Posthumanism? (2010)

Figure 3 By Gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires from Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires,

Argentina – Torre de Babel, CC BY 2.0,

write 《necklace》and 《orientation》

ENGL 111

short fiction analysis assignment

due: Friday, may 20th

600-750 words for each analysis

Submit Word or open office Document to moodle dropbox (no pdf)

Double Space all written assignments

tc “Ongoing Assignment — The Learning Journal”

We are training ourselves in this course to be critical readers and to delve below the surface of plot, character, setting and point of view using literary theory. In this assignment, you will closely examine two (2) of the short stories we studied this term through a specific critical lens. You may use any of the five theoretical questions outlined in Dr. Celena Kusch’s “A Guide to Basic Literary Theory: What Every English Major Should Know” as your guide. You can explore the same question more than once but make sure you try at least two different lenses in the assignment.

1- What does this story suggest about culture, society, and/or differences among groups of people?

2- What does this story suggest about the beauty of language, the imagination, authorship and originality, or the creation of word-based art? What does it suggest about status, elitism, high culture, and/or egalitarian self-expression?

3- What does the story reveal about the possibilities or failures of communication/representation through language?

4- What does the story reveal about the human psyche, identity, representation, or what it means to be human?

5- How does the story make, reflect, or re-shape history?

Make sure you edit your entries before submitting them for grading. These entries should be written in essay form with a central thesis statement for each and should include citations from the text in question. You do not need to include a references list for assigned texts, but if you are using secondary sources outside of the assigned stories to support your statements, be sure to include MLA citations and a references page.

The key message here is: Don’t just summarize what the author has said, and pick a central focus for your discussion based on what you learned in ENGL 110 (or equivalent). This assignment is designed to prompt you to actively engage with what you are reading, rather than to simply accept the author as an authority and absorb ‘facts’ from the text.

I look forward to reading your assignments.

ENGL 111 Short Fiction Analysis Assignment Rubric


(A range)

· The analyses offered on both are excellent, offering unique and well-supported perspectives on the readings using the terminology and theories covered in the short fiction unit.

· The perspectives offered are clear, focussed, and well supported.

· The analyses demonstrate advanced comprehension of course material and a sophisticated response to the text under consideration.

· The author skillfully integrates quotes and paraphrases source material throughout using MLA citation style.

· The writing has very few grammar, spelling, and mechanics errors.


(B range)

· The analyses offered on both stories are strong, offering unique and well-supported perspectives, though there may be some unnecessary plot summary.

· The perspectives offered are generally clear, focussed, and well supported.

· The analyses demonstrate a good comprehension of course material and respond well to the text under consideration.

· The author mostly integrates quotes and paraphrases source material throughout using MLA citation style.

· The writing may have minor grammar, spelling, and mechanics errors.


C range)

· The analyses offered on both stories are adequate, though there are issues ranging from struggles with reading comprehension to surface-level analysis (plot summary).

· The perspectives offered are not very clear, focussed, or well supported, but there’s evidence of analysis.

· The author may have integrated quotes, but there are likely issues with the citations.

· The writing likely has major grammar, spelling, and mechanics errors.



The difference between a P and F grade is that the instructor deems the writing and argumentation of a P grade assignment to reflect the minimum standards of a first year university level English course.

Below 10


· The analyses lacks focus and strays from assignment guidelines.

· The analyses don’t have a focused argument and switch topics in a jarring manner.

· Sentences are difficult to read and understand.

· The writing has major grammar, spelling, and mechanics errors.

· MLA citation style is not followed and/or the assignment may be plagiarized.