ENG 250: The Short Story

Section 7490 / Spring II 2019 / LaGuardia Community College, CUNY

Meeting info:

Mondays & Wednesdays 10:30-2:00 / E-265

Slack team url: http://eng250s19.


Instructor Info:  

Professor Bethany Holmstrom

E-mail: bholmstrom@l


Slack handle: @profh

Office: Library O / meetings in-person or virtually by appointment

Course Objectives

In this course you will:

  1. Analyze and discuss the literary elements, techniques, and themes represented in the short story.  
  2. Describe the cultural, social, economic, historical, and/or political contexts that impact the characters in the short stories discussed in class.
  3. Write formal and informal assignments in which they present and support their arguments with evidence from the stories and/or other sources.
  4. Identify the role of class, race, and gender as these elements inform choices and consequences for characters in the stories.

Course Description

Course Catalog Description: This course will examine the development and conventions of the short story providing analysis of representative short stories in the context of their biographical, social, intellectual, and artistic backgrounds. Stories will be chosen to reflect a diversity of cultural, racial and ethnic experiences.

In this section: Short stories are linked thematically, so we can look at how different authors address particular topics, in different places and times. This course is aligned with the Global Competency and the Written Ability; thus, we will be reading authors from a range of backgrounds and places, and writing in response to their work. You do not need to buy a book for this class: all assigned readings are in the course packet or posted on Slack.


How can I get a question answered?

Direct Message me on Slack @profh, or post to the #general channel if you think others also will need clarity on the topic. You can also email me at bholmstrom@lagcc.cuny.edu (Slack will be quicker though).

Can I use my phone during class? What about other devices?

If you need to send a quick text, whatever: we’re all adults here. If it’s a longer exchange or a call you need to take care of, just step outside the class rather than distracting folks. Please feel free to bring any other devices to class that will help you learn. If you want to bring your own laptop, tablet, etc.: go for it.

How many papers, and what are the deadlines?

According to the English department guidelines for this class, you will be responsible for three papers in this class and one project. You must turn in all papers to pass this class. All papers will be posted in a GoogleDrive folder (we’ll go over how to do this in class). Check the schedule below & Slack for deadlines. You get a one-time, two-day extension to use on any of the first two response papers, no questions asked.

Here’s a general overview of our papers (you’ll get detailed prompts in class):

How will I be graded, and how can I check on my grade?

In-class participation & informal writing


Three response papers, 20% each


Un-essay + Creator’s Statement


You will see grades for your written work in class posted regularly on BlackBoard: make sure you log in to BlackBoard regularly if you need to keep tabs on what grade you are earning in the class.

What is the revision policy more broadly?

You can revise and resubmit the first two response papers in this class. The final response paper will be done in class, and the Unessay will have a first draft deadline that will allow you to revise and get feedback before you hand the final in. All revisions of response paper 1 & 2 are due exactly one week from my announcement that grades are available: revisions submitted past the deadline will not be accepted. Writing is a cumulative process, you cannot save all your revisions for the last week of classes. You should be revising your writing constantly along the way, to make yourself a better writer overall.

What should I do if I missed a class?

Check the syllabus and consult Slack to see if any updates were posted. Then reach out to a couple of colleagues from the class to review what happened. If you still have questions, make an appointment to talk to me. To be clear: professors cannot “go over” everything you missed (yes, you missed things!), or re-teach the entire class. Your colleagues should be able to fill you in (and you should be able to do the same for them if they are absent).

What should I do if my “life stuff” is interfering with my “college stuff”?

Any student who is having trouble affording the basics, lacks a stable place to live, and/or is experiencing other issues that they think may affect their performance in the course, is urged to contact Student Services for support. Single Stop provides a variety of services such as financial support, tax help, and legal counseling for immigration, among other needs.

What should I do if I need a learning accommodation?

Your success in this class is important to me. We will all need accommodations because we all learn differently. If there are aspects of this course that prevent you from learning or exclude you, please let me know as soon as possible. Together we’ll develop strategies to meet both your needs and the requirements of the course: in my “former life” I was a special education teacher. I encourage you to visit the Office for Students with Disabilities to determine how you could improve your learning as well. If you need official accommodations, you have a right to have these met. There are also a range of resources on campus, including the Writing Center and tutoring opportunities.

What did you mean the first day when you called this an “inclusive” classroom?

Every student in this classroom, regardless of personal history or identity categories, is a valued member of this group. Your experiences are valuable and important, and you should feel free to share them as they become relevant to our class. No student in this class is ever expected or believed to speak for all members of a group. In this classroom you have the right to determine your own identity. You have the right to be called by whatever name you wish, and for that name to be pronounced correctly. You have the right to be referred to by whatever pronouns you wish. You have the right to adjust those things at any point in your education. If you find that there are aspects of course instruction, subject matter, or classroom environment that result in barriers to your inclusion, please contact me privately without fear of reprisal.

What should I avoid?

Don't plagiarize on a paper; if you plagiarize, you will fail the class. Don’t miss more than 15% of class (6 hours, as per the college handbook). Try hard, read, come to class, write, engage with the material, and be involved in the learning process — and you'll be fine.

Course Schedule

Please note that all assignments/due dates are subject to change. The things listed under #additionalresources are in that channel on Slack. All short stories are in your course packet.

June 17: What is a Short Story?


In class reading: Short shorts Bonanza!

  • Osama Alomar, “A Taste”
  • Amy Hempel, “Housewife”
  • Lydia Davis, “The Mother”
  • Lucy Corin, “Time Capsules”
  • Franz Kafka, “An Imperial Message”
  • Hugh Behm-Steinberg, “Taylor Swift”
  • Jamaica Kincaid, “Girl”
  • Marlon James, “How to Be a Man”


June 19:  WTF?: Magic Realism Edition

Required reading due:

  • Gabriel García Márquez, “Light Is Like Water”
  • Jorge Luis Borges, “August 25, 1983”
  • Aimee Bender, “The Rememberer”
  • Etgar Keret, “Unzipping”


June 24: WTF?: Kinda (or Very) Creepy Edition

Required reading due:

  • Franz Kafka, “A Hunger Artist”
  • Samantha Schweblin, “Mouthful of Birds”
  • Helen Oyeyemi, “If a Book is Locked There’s Probably a Good Reason for That Don’t You Think”


June 26: Dystopia, Utopia, & Ustopia

Required reading due:

  • Shirley Jackson, “The Lottery”
  • Ursula Le Guin, “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas”
  • N.K. Jemisin, “The Ones Who Stay and Fight”


July 1  No Meeting: Classes Follow Thursday Schedule @ LaGuardia

July 3: America! (?)

Required reading due:

  • Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenya, “The Finkelstein 5”
  • Nafissa Thompson-Spires, “Heads of the Colored People: Four Fancy Sketches, Two Chalk Outlines, and No Apology”
  • Rebecca Roanhorse, “Welcome to Your Authentic Indian Experience™”


Writing due: Response Paper 1 for Swap

July 8: Refugees

Required reading due: 

  • Selected Response Paper 1s
  • Edwidge Danticat, “Children of the Sea”
  • Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “The American Embassy”
  • Viet Thanh Nguyen, “Black-Eyed Women”


July 10: Folktales, Myths, & Legends

Required reading due:

  • Alyssa Wong, “Olivia’s Table”
  • Ramona Ausubel, “You Can Find Love Now”
  • Prabda Yoon, “The Disappearance of a She-Vampire in Pattaya”
  • Intan Paramaditha, “The Blind Woman Without a Toe”


  • New Yorker interview with Ramona Ausubel

July 15:  Horror

Required reading due:

  • Carmen Maria Machado, “The Husband Stitch”
  • James Tiptree, Jr., “The Screwfly Solution”
  • Mariana Enríquez, “Things We Lost in the Fire”


July 17: Family

Required reading due:

  • Akwaeka Emezi, “Who Is Like God”
  • Ken Liu, “Paper Menagerie”
  • Mahesh Rao, “The Agony of Leaves”
  • Rania Mamoun, “Passing”

July 22: Love?

Required reading due: 

  • Kristen Roupenian, “Cat Person”
  • Yukiko Motoya, “How to Burden the Girl”


Writing due: Response Paper 2

July 24: Loss

Required reading due:

  • Selected Response Paper 2
  • Anjali Sachdeva, “Pleiades”
  • Lauren Groff, “Eyewall”
  • Margarita García Robayo, “Worse Things”


Writing due: Unessay proposal due on Drive by FRIDAY, July 26

July 29

Unessay Lab & Conferences

Writing due: Draft of Creator’s Statement & Bibliography due by end of class

July 31

Unessay Presentations / Response Paper 3 written in class / Baked goods & closure

Response Paper 1 & 2 edits due by Thursday, August 1

ENG 250 Syllabus/ Holmstrom / Spring II 2019