We’ve read three classic, American short stories so far this semester (“Rip Van Winkle,” “Young Goodman Brown,” and “My Kinsman, Major Molineux), and we’ve discussed the structure and dynamics of fictional narrative. Now is the time to show me what you’ve learned.
Your goal in this assignment is to compare the stories we’ve read in class to a narrative from outside of class. To do this, you’ll need to:
1) analyze your short story. We’ve outlined several ways of getting at the narrative structure of the journey narrative. Start with dividing your story up into a sequence of plot events. Then, start thinking about the significance of these events: where is the disruption – – that place where the narrative exits the routine and the repetitive and enters into meaningful, exciting time? how does this disruption help to organize the journey into different spaces or settings – – for instance, the space of the everyday versus the space of transformation? using your sequence of story events, can you identify the beginning and end phases of the story?
2) interpret your short story. Interpretation is about meaning, and analysis helps to lay bare your the ways your narrative organizes meaning. Some tools to help you interpret your story (recalling our class discussions): how is everyday space contrasted with the space of transformation? (Recall the “pious” vs. “heathen” in “Young Goodman Brown,” or the familiar vs. the strange in “My Kinsman, or “petticoat (female) government” in “Rip” vs. bowling with the boys (e.g. female v. male.); to what extent is your story’s space of transformation similar to and different from the classic versions of “nature” in each of our three stories? how is the conflict defined in your story? (Remember, conflict isn’t just about people – – it’s also about values, e.g. the pious v. the profane in “Young Goodman” or black-and-white/everyday v. color/Hollywood in Lizzie’s Wizard of Oz example.); do you see any examples of “pollution” – – the confusion and mixing of things that should be separate – – in your story? And, finally, remember that geographical narratives are almost always temporal narratives – – i.e. characters move over space but the real action is in the change that characters and settings undergo. How can you define these changes in terms of the values and meanings that the story starts with? (Remember A – B -A’.)
3) argue for your “reading” of the stories. Now that you’ve analyzed the stories – – you’ve probably noticed some interesting similarities and differences between your story and those we read in class. Which of these seems the most interesting? You won’t have time or space to explain all of the similarities and differences that you’ve discovered – – so you’ll need to focus on the most interesting. Use your essay to explain why and how these similarities and differences are interesting. You don’t have to use all of our in-class stories, but you do need to include at least one.
Your essay should be no more than two, double-spaced pages. Be sure to include the authors and titles of the narratives that you examine. Also, include all of your analytical and interpretive notes – – these don’t have to be typed. Don’t worry about page citations or bibliography/works cited. Be sure to double check for typos, spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Your first essay is due: Thursday, February 16, at the beginning of class.
Don’t procrastinate. Start analyzing your story now! That way you can bring questions or concerns to class on Tuesday. Enjoy!