Short Stories

Group Talks & Micro-Essays

Focus Stories & Break-Out Options

Once per marking period we will address a set of short stories for close analysis (and as structural and thematic extensions of our current novel!).  We will read one together, our Focus Story, and then large groups of 6 or more will select a related (Break-Out) work to read and study together for individual Micro-Essays on the story which relate the story through a literary theory we have studied. 

Watch the Assignments page for reading dates and micro-essay completion dates. While I will recommend windows of time for you to work on these, your groups may choose to adjust these somewhat. 

You can also, optionally:

  • Go back to a story from a previous marking period for your Break-Out story if you have not previously worked on it
  • Add a podcast or two about your Break-Out story (but not the Focus Story)
  • Swap a Break-Out story with a set of three poems by a single author if the group chooses (prior approval needed)


General Directions

Specific directions will be forthcoming on the Assignments page, but in general, Micro-Essays:

  • Are full academic-style essays (Intro, Body, Conclusion)
  • Focus on content-rich sentences to avoid “filler” and repetition
  • Is ~750-10000 words in length (1 ½ – 2 double-spaced pages)

Short Story Micro-Essays:

  • Purpose: Write an interpretation (analysis) of the chosen story using only one of the literary theories selected for that marking period.
    • Since this essay is brief, consider writing only about an aspect of the story and an aspect of the theory to make your case.
    • This essay is neither a book report nor a review to praise or critique a story.
  • Introductions should be brief, perhaps only a 1-2 sentence well-constructed thesis.
  • Middle sections should be precisely developed with textual support, focusing on the commentary and reasoning for your interpretation.
    • Avoid all plot summary; avoid describing or “teaching” the theory; avoid lengthy quotations
    • Focus on your interpretation
  • Conclusions might also be brief, offering a larger implication or theme, a question that rises from your interpretation, a speculation on the function of a literary device generally, etc. 
Process and Steps
  • Form your reading group of at least 6 students and select your Break-Out story.
  • Use your group to discuss, interpret, draft and workshop essays, etc.
    • Forums and class time are both good places for this
    • If your group would like a Moodle Workshop set up, let me know.
  • Each individual in the group completes their own micro-essay on a different interpretation or approach to the same story. (See ideas below)
  • Papers for each group should all be turned in within the same week of school (plan this!), but not later than the assignment due date.
  • Each paper should have at the top of the first page an assessment of the group’s score for the essay, on the 6-pt scale. This can be made as a Comment on the GoogleDoc or by the writer (i.e. “My group believes this essay deserves a 3.” )
Approaches and Topics
  • Focus on specifics, not general approaches to the essay. “‘The Looking Glass’ is a story with psychological issues” is a terrible topic.  “Nellie in ‘The Looking Glass’ abdicates her autonomy and thus her happiness by conforming to the demands of her Inner-Directed SuperEgo” is much more specific.
  • Move us toward meaning, an arguable interpretation, a theme
  • Consider: a character, the setting, the narration, the plot structure, the internal conflict, the resolution
  • Consider: imagery, diction, detail, syntax, irony
  • Consider: writerly choices which employ other literary devices
  • Match to: a theme or question, a function of a device, a discovery about literature and how it works, etc.
  • Using: the techniques and methods and vocabulary of the theory you are employing.

Some Sample Micro-Essay Titles:

  • ‘There again there followed darkness’: The Meaning of Emptiness in Chekhov’s “The Looking Glass” (Modernism)
  • Echoes of Chekhov’s Tuberculosis in “The Looking Glass” (Historicism)
  • The Role of the Dream in Literature as Seen in “The Looking Glass” (New Criticism)
  • The Irony of the Patriarch: The Curse Of and Need For Older Men in “The Looking Glass” (Modernism)
  • Nellie’s Father Issues: Fragile Happiness Through Displacement in “The Looking Glass” (Freudian Psychology)
  • The Function of the Narrative Ellipses in Chekhov’s “The Looking Glass” (New Criticism)

Marking Period One:

Literary Theories to Consider:

    • Historicism
    • Modernism / New Criticism
    • Freudian Psychological Criticism



Marking Period Two:

Literary Theories to Consider:

  • Jungian Psychological Criticism
  • Structuralism
  • Phenomenology

Marking Period Three:

Literary Theories to Consider:

    • Deconstruction
    • Dialogical Criticism
    • Neo-Marxism



Marking Period Four:

Literary Theories to Consider:

  • Feminism
  • New Historicism
  • Minority Criticism
  • Queer Studies
  • Post-Colonial Studies