Engl 565 American Genre: Short Story Cycles

Fall Semester 2005

MWF 10:00-10:50, Grubbs 312

Instructor: Dr. Kathleen L. Nichols

Paper Assignments

  • Short Paper #1: Winesburg, Ohio

Due Date: Fri., 10-07.

Length: 4 typed pages


Discuss the four-part "Godliness" sequence as a mini-cycle within the larger short story cycle titled Winesburg, Ohio. How do the "Godliness" stories "interlink" with each other and with the stories that precede and follow them. Do the "Godliness" stories fill out or vary or invert or add something new to patterns and motifs developed throughout the book? If you look at a contrasting element, explain the point of the contrast--how it enhances or further complicates other stories or themes in the book. Specifically consider elements such as character, plot, setting, point-of-view, theme, and/or symbol. Be sure to look closely at selected parts of each story ("close reading") and to always cite evidence from the stories to support and illustrate any generalizations you make.

NOTE: I would like this paper to be your own well-supported analysis, which means you should not consult any outside sources. However, if you do consult outside sources, you are ethically bound to indicate that in your paper by using MLA documentation. In that case, see me for advice on the proper ways to incorporate outside sources into your paper.

See Organizing your Paper and Typing Directions and MLA style/format.

  • Short Paper #2: Assigned Cycle, plus Scholarly Article

Due Date: Fri., 12-02.

Length: 4 typed pages, plus "Works Cited" page.


Select one of the short story cycles we read and find a scholarly article about it. (See Resources for some scholarly articles online or use the library database--Academic Search Premier is highly recommended--to locate a full-text scholarly article.) After you carefully study the article, write a paper in which you agree or disagree with the thesis or approach (I'd prefer that you disagree). Develop your reading of the short story cycle to show how it adds to/corrects/supplements/disagrees with the reading offered in the article. Make sure you weave the points made in the article into and throughout your paper even as you advance your own reading of the cycle and support it with details and examples from your selected text.

NOTE: For a model of how to incorporate other published readings into your own reading, study how your selected article makes use of other published articles--sometimes agreeing, other times disagreeing, sometimes citing an interesting point in another article and then adding something more to it from the literary text.

Since this is a course on the "genre" of the short story cycle, I strongly recommend that your assessment of the article focus on the question of how well does it help readers understand your selected short story cycle as a cycle. See me if you want to address a different issue.

See Organizing your Paper and Typing Directions and MLA style/format.

  • Outside Writing Project (Engl 805-credit only)

Due Date: Mon. 11-07.

Length: 6-10 typed pages, plus "Works Cited" page.


From the class hand-out, select a short story cycle/sequence/composite novel we did not read in class. Also find two scholarly articles on it (see Resources for some scholarly articles online or use the library database--Academic Search Premier or the MLA International Bibliography is highly recommended--to locate full-text scholarly articles). Weaving your sources into your own reading of the cycle, discuss one or more significant ways that the author uses "interlinks" between and among stories to create a cohesive, unified literary text. Perhaps go so far as to argue that the cycle form as employed by that author is the most effective way (as opposed to a short story collection or a fully-developed novel) to convey the author's themes or vision. Make sure that you support your own reading with details and examples from the literary text.

See Organizing your Paper and Typing Directions and MLA style/format.

  • Focus and Organization:


Introductions in short papers should be short--maybe 4-5 sentences long--but no longer than two paragraphs in papers 7-10 pages long. Begin with some general statement about your topic (if you are going to write about the significance of the settings, get the word "setting" somewhere in the opening sentence), and include the author and title. Perhaps provide a one-sentence summary of the story (no longer, please), and/or indicate some pertinent background, and/or suggest why the topic will be helpful in understanding the stories or the entire book better. If secondary sources are part of the writing assignment, BRIEFLY referring to the various approaches of the secondary sources or some significant trend in literary criticism that they represent is a standard strategy. At the end of the introduction, state your thesis--your overall conclusion about the meaning or significance of your topic. Remember that your thesis is what the rest of the paper will be about. For more information on how to form a strong and workable thesis, see How to Write a Thesis.

NOTE: All or most of the introduction will be your own writing, but it is all right to include SHORT paraphrases or quotations, properly cited, of course.

Body of Paper

Since you can't talk about everything at once, sub-divide your thesis/conclusion into 4-6 sub-points, depending on the length of your paper. Those sub-points will form the topic sentences--what you have to say about that subject, the point you want to make--for each body paragraph. Each topic sentence should be followed by lots of specific details and examples and short quotations, etc., from your texts, as well as your explanation/analysis of that information.

NOTE: I hate skimpy paragraphs that are only 1-2 sentences long; put some meat on those bones--another 5-7 sentences of details and examples and explanations, please!)

After each quotation (even one quoted word), insert a page number in parenthesis. If secondary sources are part of the assignment, follow MLA instructions on parenthetical in-text citations keyed to a separate 'Works Cited" page.

WRITING TIP: Arrange your sub-points according to the Order of Climax--begin with your second-best sub-point followed by your weakest sub-point and then work your way up to your best sub-point at the end so that the paper finishes on a strong note.


Conclusions in short papers should be short--maybe 3-4 sentences long. Begin the concluding paragraph with a re-statement of your opening thesis/conclusion--but in language very different than was used in the introduction. In a couple more sentences, refer to your topic AS A WHOLE-- why it is significant and worth studying, for instance, or finally, what it all adds up to.

NOTE: In the conclusion, do not repeat your sub-points--much too repetitious in a short paper!

  • Typing Directions:

  • Use font "Times New Roman" size 11 or 12.
  • Double-space EVERYTHING, including set-off quotations and "Works Cited" pages.
  • Include one-inch margins on all sides.
  • Indent first line of all paragraphs by five spaces. Don't insert extra spacing between paragraphs.
  • Place page number in top-right corner (1/2 inch from top).
  • On the first page, in the top-left corner, put your name, your instructor's name, the class name and number, and the date--all double-spaced.
  • Below the date, in the center of page, add a title.
  • PROOFREAD--typing errors count as grammar errors.

  • MLA Style:

See this short summary of MLA style: Using Modern Language Association (MLA) Format. It gives the basic "rules" for in-text citation and bibliographies, including how to cite electronic sources, and provides an example of "Basic Paper Format."

Also check out MLA Style: Frequently Asked Questions.

For more detailed information on MLA style, consult a hardcopy of the "official" MLA Handbook.

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