Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG213H1S - L0101

ENG213H1S L0101 T1-3, R 1
The Short Story
Professor Uzo Esonwanne
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Office Location:
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 715

Brief Description of Course: In “The Flash of Fireflies,” Nadine Gordimer contrasts novelists and short story writers. Novelists, she says, are unable to represent what she calls “the quality of human life.” In the course of explaining why they fail in carrying out this task, she explains what that “quality of human life” is: in human life, “contact is more like the flash of fireflies, in and out, now here, now there, in darkness.” It is “by the light” of such “flash” that “short–story writers see” and produce “the art of the only thing one can be sure of – the present moment.” For Gordimer, “contact” is the defining experience of “human life,” and short fiction gives us brief intimations of the brevity, immediacy, and evanescence of our experience of contact because it directs its gaze, rivets our attention, to the now. Is Gordimer’s definition of “human life” valid? What does she mean by “contact,” and what is the experience does it affords us that makes it “the quality” in our lives? How short must the short story be to afford us this singular human experience? In it this course, we will attempt to answer these questions, and more, by studying several short stories by writers from different parts of the world.

Required Reading: TBA.

First Three Authors/Texts: Gogol, “A Madman’s Diary”; Lu Hsun, “A Madman’s Diary”; Gilman, “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Method of Instruction: lectures, open discussions, question-and-answer sessions (pre-class reading is vital)

Method of Evaluation: Four unscheduled participatory activities (20%; no make-ups); mid-term test (30%); and exam (50%).

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