ENGL 242 A: Reading Prose Fiction

Summer Term: 
Meeting Time: 
MTWTh 12:00pm - 2:10pm
* *
Jessica Burstein
Jessica Burstein

Syllabus Description:

Engl 242A Summer 2021                              Professor Burstein, “Reading Prose Fiction”

MTWR 12-2:10 PDT.  Taught in real time. 

Class Zoom site: see MyPlan.

Office Hours: Zoom site TBA; Wednesdays 2-4 (drop in or by appt; I recommend appts.); or if you can’t make that, by appointment at other times. If my camera is not on, I’m still there, and you are not interrupting me. Please say “knock, knock” so I know you are there and I’ll turn on my camera. Please have your camera on for office hour appointments.

This class introduces the student to some of the best modern prose fiction around, ranging from one of the writers who continues to influence the modern short story, Ernest Hemingway, to Raven Leilani’s 2020 novel Luster. You will become conversant with the anatomy of fiction: point of view, climax, and the importance of syntax—how the words fit together.  At the thematic level, we will focus on perspective, in both its metaphorical and literal senses. How we see is key to understanding not just what we know but how we know it. Close reading will be taught, alongside the need of connecting, or at least balancing, the micro with the macro. Because this course counts as a writing credit, all writing is assessed on the basis of grammar, and form, as well as the successfully concretizing and conveying an idea.

Grades are based on response papers, a final exam, in-class work, quizzes, and informed discussion.

This course is taught synchronously for considered ethical and pedagogical reasons. If you have conflicts with the class time, you need to find another class.

Hard copy is mandatory for the following three texts. Hard copy does not include any electronic versions.

  1. James Joyce, Dubliners. Any hard copy version. Rec: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1853260483; or a (used) Norton Critical Edition Margot Norris (Editor)
  2. Raven Leilani, Luster (2021) paperback or hard copy: ISBN-13 ‏: ‎ 978-1250798671
  3. Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway. Mariner ISBN-13: 978-0156628709; Or Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway, ed. Anne Fernald. Norton, ISBN-13 : 978-0393655995

Other readings are in Canvas "Files."

N.B.: The class will be reading fiction containing explicit sexual language; explicit depictions of violence, some of it directed toward women; the use of racially demeaning terms, and misogynist language. Alongside a commitment to anti-racist pedagogy, I adopt Dr. Koritha Mitchell’s pedagogical practice: “The N-word is not uttered in my classes, even if it appears in the reading. We simply say N or N’s when reading passages aloud.”  http://www.korithamitchell.com/teaching-and-the-n-word/ (Links to an external site.) https://soundcloud.com/c19podcast/nword


Week 1: 21-24 June: Introductory Terms and Concepts

21 June  Mon: Introduction

 How To Read

  1. A) Words. The OED. https://www-oed-com.offcampus.lib.washington.edu/
  2. B) Text (What’s text? What’s fiction? What’s prose?)
  3. C) Paratext

How To Write:

Titles—Yours, Theirs; Response Papers. See Marginal Comments: The Lexicon.


Tues 22 June: Point of View I

Lorrie Moore, “How To Become a Writer”

James Joyce, “Araby” (This is in Dubliners, but you can find it in “Files” if you don’t have the hard copy yet.)


Wed 23 June: Point of View II

Ernest Hemingway, “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber”


Thurs 24 June: POV 1, 2 ,3

9 am RP#1 Due on either Hemingway or Mansfield.

James Joyce, “Araby”; Katherine Mansfield, “Bliss,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The Thing Around Your Neck”

Hour 2: How to Take Notes: Mortimer Adler--and why you will need hard copy for longer works.


Week 2 28 June-1 July: Close Reading, Collections and Icebergs

Mon: 3rd person, con't, and 2nd person revisited.

Tues: Joyce, from Dubliners: Close reading. Joyce, from Dubliners, “An Encounter,” “Two Gallants,” “Eveline”“Counterparts,” “Clay,” “A Mother,” “The Dead”

Wedn: Joyce, con't. Themes.

9 am RP #2 due on any Joyce story other than “Araby”; or Munroe.

Thurs: Joyce, conclusion.


Week 3 5-8 July: Realisms

Mon: Holiday.

Tues:  9 am RP #3 due on Luster.  In class: Alice Munroe, “Fits” ; Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” “Cathedral”

Wedn: Luster--in its entirety.

Thurs: Luster.

Week 4: 12-15 July: The Novel: Experimentalism

M: Luster

Mrs. Dalloway. 9 am RP #4 due.

W: Dalloway.

R: Dalloway


Week 5: 19-21 July

Monday 19 July: Time and Love: Eley Williams, "Smote." Annie Proulx, “Brokeback Mountain” 9 am RP # 5 due, on either text.

Tuesday 20 July. Conclusions.

Wedn  21 July. In-class exam.



Grading Rubric.

Unless otherwise stipulated all response papers are due at 9 am. Late response papers will be penalized; very late ones may not be accepted. I am aware that we live in difficult and uncertain times; please contact me if an unforeseen issue arises that impacts your getting something in on time.

Response papers: 40%

Exam: 30%    Held in class: Short answer and short essay.

Classwork: Scribing, being an interlocutor, in-class writing, quizzes: 30%

See “How To Scribe” in Canvas Files. In-class writing is held spontaneously as a means of focusing the conversation; it is due within 24 hours of the end of the class in which it occurred. Given the topic, it may or may not be something that can be made up if you are not present.


  1. Always write me from your uw.edu email account. I do not open emails sent from personal accounts. Contact UW IT if you are confused about the mechanics of forwarding email to different accounts.
  2. Unless otherwise specified the grade scale used is the UW’s 4.0 grade scale system.
  3. All written assignments are to follow standard paper formatting. This may mean you have to change the default spacing in Word from spacing to “no spaces” between paragraphs. Papers receive an automatic penalty if this is not adjusted. When we hit Woolf, you will understand why spacing can be essential to understanding.
  4. Do not plagiarize. Plagiarism includes the lifting of material from the internet, collusion, and the use of sources without full citation. Papers and presentations are to be the result of your own labor, and all sources must be documented. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes plagiarism, consult me. Plagiarism encompasses unintentional as well as intentional behavior.
  5. If I get your name or preferred pronoun wrong, please let me know.
  6. Office hours are not held by email. You are welcome to set up an appointment by email; think in terms of 5, 10, 20, or 30 minute periods of time, and I will hold a slot of time for you. If you make an appointment not during office hours and you fail to appear without cancelling in advance (barring emergencies, obviously), in the future you will work within my given office hours.

This syllabus is subject to change. I will announce changes during our in-person classes, and/or notify the class through announcements and/or email. You are responsible for keeping up with these modifications to our schedule and/or assignments: check your email account once a day for the remainder of the term.

If you require accommodation owing to a disability, contact the Disabilities Resources for Students Office (DRS) in Schmitz Hall 448 (206-548-8924; uwdss@u.washington.edu) or the Disabilities Services Office (DSO) at dso@u.washington.edu. It is your responsibility to follow all rules outlined by the DRS/DSO: Should forms be involved, you must ensure delivery to me with time enough to allow for us to arrive at a mutual understanding of the means by which those accommodations are best met.

 “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy (https://registrar.washington.edu/staffandfaculty/religious-accommodations-policy/) (Links to an external site.). Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (https://registrar.washington.edu/students/religious-accommodations-request/) (Links to an external site.).”

 The Department of English at the University of Washington acknowledges that our university is located on the shared lands and waters of the Coast Salish peoples. We aspire to be a place where human rights are respected and where any of us can seek support. This includes people of all ethnicities, faiths, gender identities, national and indigenous origins, political views, and citizenship status; nontheists; LGBQTIA+; those with disabilities; veterans; and anyone who has been targeted, abused, or disenfranchised.


Catalog Description: 
Critical interpretation and meaning in works of prose fiction, representing a variety of types and periods.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
May 26, 2021 - 3:52am