January 19, 2023

From Gerald R. Lucas

ENGL 4430 First Week

Welcome, once again, to everyone, and well done on your first week’s work. By this point, you should have read the syllabus, done some research, ordered your book, and posted your introduction and short story research on Packback. I’m happy to say that most of you have done all of this, and most of our Packback posts went above-and-beyond the minimum requirements for the week. Excelsior!

As you are all English majors, I will not go over my usual primers. However, in case you need them, you might have a look at Writing in the Liberal Arts and the Editor’s Checklist for an overview of conventions that most of you will already be very familiar with. You might also see Academic Forum Posts for some guidance in composing your posts for Packback. Most of you are already up-to-speed.

Anna in Yalta // Midjourney 2023.

Most posts supported your short story questions/responses with specific sources. Well done. However, let me remind you that sources like encyclopedias, dictionaries, online essay cheat sites, and dubious blogs should not be be used as sources. Please use solid scholarly sources that you find through a library search. Privilege books and peer-reviewed journals. Fortunately, many articles are available in full-text. Also, be sure to indicate within the body of your post the information you take from your source(s) (see Digital Citation for a guide). This is crucial so that we can easily distinguish your ideas from the critics and you can avoid any inadvertent plagiarism.

Remember, too, that your minimum posting requirement each week is one question and two responses. This week, most of you exceeded this requirement, but a couple missed it. That said, the first grade is a pass/fail, and if you participated, you passed. I did leave some individual feedback on D2L grades and on Packback. Please be sure you have a look. If I left you no feedback, you did great. I did feature a couple of stringer posts and awarded some “sparks.”

Looking forward, I want this to be your discussion forum, so my participation will be at a minimum. That said, I will occasionally post seed threads that highlight intertextual connections. While your posts may be on a single short story, my prompts will emphasize intertextuality, but don’t feel compelled to answer my prompts. Consider this question: does this small selection of texts allow us to draw some general conclusions about national concerns in the twentieth century? For example, in looking at the Russian short stories this week, what themes, characters, styles, etc. link them that we might we call “Russian”? Do these stories tell us what it means to be “Russian” in the twentieth century? As we add national short stories to our reading, we also might consider how the “Russians” relate, say to the “Latin Americans.”

Looking even further forward to the exams, my questions will likely be more general, allowing you to write about texts that interest you and ones you find connections between. Here are some sample prompts you could see on the midterm and final:

  • Analyze the use of symbolism in a short story from a culture outside of your own.
  • Compare and contrast the narrative techniques used in two short stories from different countries.
  • Discuss the theme of identity in a short story from a non-Western culture.
  • Write a critical analysis of a short story that explores the intersection of tradition and modernity.
  • Analyze the use of magical realism in a short story from Latin America.
  • Compare the representation of gender in a short story from Africa and a short story from Asia.
  • Discuss the role of the narrator in a short story from the Middle East.
  • Write a literary analysis of a short story that explores the immigrant experience.
  • Analyze the use of folklore in a short story from Eastern Europe.
  • Compare and contrast the themes of resistance and oppression in two short stories from different countries.

And that’s all I have for this week. Again, well done, all. I’m happy to meet you, albeit virtually, and look forward to your insights this semester. Oh, and if you’re on Reddit, feel free to use my subreddit r/LitWiki for informal (i.e. ungraded) discussions and questions. It could be a good place to work out some ideas before posting to Packback.

If you have questions for me, please use my MGA email and not D2L. Have a good weekend.