THE SHORT STORY: Seminar Presentations

Your group's seminar presentation should be a coherent discussion that helps your classmates appreciate your chosen short story. Provide an extensive handout in note format, which will serve as a kind of "mini-Cliff Note," giving literary and biographical information needed for a thorough under-standing of the story. Include all the topics on this assignment sheet in reproducible form (typed or printed in black ink). The very best handouts will be more than thorough -- perhaps even provocative. Your presentation should take from 20 to 30 minutes, but it should not be a mechanical rendering of information already on the handout. (Remember that as teachers, you will also be expected to evaluate your lesson and assess your classmates' learning!)

1. The Writer's Background: How has the writer's personal life affected this story? What literary influences are evident from the writer's background or from the story itself? Do not tell everything you find, but rather sift through this information, interpreting and emphasizing what is truly relevant.

2. The Writer's Other Works: Is this work typical for the writer? Are the themes in your story consistent with themes in other works by the writer? Has the writer used other literary forms in any way that might be significant or interesting? Show us the connections.

3. Précis of the Short Story: Following directions given in class, write a one-paragraph summary of the story. Do not draw conclusions or interpret in your synopsis. Be accurate and concise. Write in your own words, but avoid choppy sentences. Combine "baby" sentences when necessary for grace.

4. Technical Details about the Short Story:
A. Setting:
Describe the setting, as to both time and place. Is the setting integral to the story or independent? Analyze whether a change in setting would significantly alter the story.
B. Characters: List and analyze the major characters. Discuss dominant traits and significant actions. Are they flat or round, static or dynamic? Examine whether character is revealed directly or indirectly. Explore character relationships if appropriate for your story. Identify protagonist and antagonist. Note any foils or doubles.
Point of View: Who is the narrator? Is he reliable? What point of view is used? First or third-person? Limited or omniscient? Major or minor character perspective? Objective or subjective? Analyze how the writer's choice of viewpoint influences the reader.
D. Plot Structure: List and analyze the elements of plot (narrative hook, exposition, rising action, climax or turning point, falling action, and resolution). Does the story fit Freytag's pyramid, or is it organized differently? Are the conflicts internal or external? Specifically, who vs. whom? Are the conflicts resolved?
E. Theme: List several possible themes offered by your story rather than committing your group to one and one alone. Indicate whether theme is stated or implied. Remember theme must be a statement; no questions allowed!

5. Significant Quotations: Cite sentences and/or passages which seem significant or which illustrate the writer's style. Include the page number and be prepared to discuss what each quotation means, why you chose it, and how it is important to the story. Remember that dialogue and quotation are not the same thing.

6. Special Topics: What special line of inquiry interests your group? You might consider additional technical aspects, such as irony, satire, figurative language, or symbolism. Does this story take a stand about family relationships, sexual attitudes, racial discrimination, economics, politics, or religion? Might the Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Cardinal Virtues be relevant? Or a discussion of sins of omission vs. sins of commission?
You could discuss plot patterns, such as rite of passage, initiation, fall from innocence, or quest. Or examine motifs, such as death and rebirth or cycles of nature. You might apply Northrop Frye's heroic types or Joseph Campbell's plot paradigm. Or Sigmund Freud's id, ego, and superego? Or Carl Jung's archetypes? Perhaps there are contrasts that produce tension within the story: Reason vs. Emotion, Knowledge vs. Ignorance, Realism vs. Romanticism, Civilization vs. Savagery, Age vs. Youth, Male vs. Female? And on and on and on

Grading Rubric for Short Story Seminars

Back OR Home