Rosalie M. Blaul
FACDIS, Summer 2005
Advanced Placement Short Story Intensive: Modern Italian Short Fiction
Reading and discussing modern short stories and excerpts from novels in an intensive program with Advanced Placement English Literature students can serve to introduce elements of fiction and literary analysis that will be essential throughout the year.
Often honors students have been taught that in both reading and composition length is more important that depth and that simple recall can substitute for questioning, understanding, evaluation and synthesis. As students begin their work in AP, their most important immediate goal is to realize they must now change their approach to literature. Although learning to be more analytical takes time, the skills required are best introduced early in the year. The canon of AP Literature, which includes fiction and nonfiction in translation, emphasizes works “of recognized literary merit” which invite the reader to consider multiple meanings and shades of understanding.
This introductory unit presents selected short works by modern Italian authors to enliven and broaden the Advanced Placement curriculum, to establish literary discussion groups, and to ensure that all students have the basic understandings and tools that will be needed as the year progresses. Longer works are noted to supplement the unit.
West Virginia Content Standards and Objectives
Standard 1: Reading Objectives
RLA 12.1.1 Analyze and research historical, cultural, and biographical influence
RLA 12.1.2 Analyze and evaluate author’s choice of genre
RLA 12.1.3 Increase independent reading
RLA 12.1.4 Employ reading strategies for various purposes
RLA 12.1.6 Form supportable conclusions, inferences and generalizations and
interpret character traits
RLA 12.1.8 Expand vocabulary through reading and applying etymologies
RLA 12.1.9 Interpret and evaluate literary devices, especially figurative language
RLA 12.1.10 Analyze and evaluate content, structure, and tone
RLA 12.1.11 Evaluate literary criticism applicable to genre studied
Standard 2: Writing Objectives
RLA 12.2.1 Employ writing strategies to address specific purposes
RLA 12.2.4 Develop focused compositions with logical progression of ideas
RLA 12.2.5 Use vocabulary that is vivid, precise, and economical
RLA 12.2.6 Use subtle forms of transitional devices
RLA 12.2.11 Refine a personal style and voice in writing
RLA 12.2.12 Correct errors in organization, content, usage, mechanics, and spelling
RLA 12.2.14 Employ a sound notetaking system
RLA 12.2.15 Integrate concepts of intellectual property and plagiarism
RLA 12.2.18 Select appropriate editing strategies
RLA 12.2.19 Correct errors in subject/verb agreement
Standard 3: Listening, Speaking, and Viewing
RLA 12.3.1 Adapt and apply speaking skills to participate in a variety of situations
RLA 12.3.3 Master listening, speaking, and viewing by using a variety of techniques
irony (situational, verbal, dramatic)
point of view (1 st person, 3 rd person, omniscient)
close reading and discussion
dialectical study journals
Cornell note-taking instruction
analytical essays as assignments and as in-class timed writings
video clips to support reading and discussion
creative writing: the short story
short research reports following MLA format
Calvino, Italo. If on a winter’s night a traveler. Trans. William Weaver. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1981.
Astonishing experimental novel in ten parts that explores the difficulties of reading and writing. The role of the reader, reader response theory, authorial intent, the craft of writing are opened for discussion.
---. Under the Jaguar Sun. Trans. William Weaver. London: Vintage, 1992.
A collection of three short stories, including “Under the Jaguar Sun” which can be read for its passionate imagery and symbolism, and perhaps compared to Like Water for Chocolate. “A King Listens” involves the sense of hearing and the power of silence, while “The Name, the Nose” focuses on scent, and could be companioned with an excerpt from the film, Scent of a Woman.
---. Difficult Loves. Trans. William Weaver, et al. San Diego: Harvest/HBJ Book, 1984.
A collection of short stories originally written from 1945 to 1983 and divided here into “Riviera Stories,” Wartime Stories,” “Post-War Stories, and “Stories of Love and Loneliness.” The last, “The Adventure of a Poet,” presents a couple traveling together and an intense sensual revelation that could be compared to “Under the Jaguar Sun.”
Dibdin, Michael. Medusa. New York: Pantheon Books, 2003.
Aurelio Zen Mystery set in northern Italy....opening chapter for mood and characterization through setting
Eco, Umberto. “ Casablanca, or, the Clichés Are Having a Ball.” Signs of Life in the U.S.A.: Readings on Popular Culture for Writers , Sonia Maasik and Jack Solomon, eds. Boston: Bedford Books, 1994. An essay on the archetypal nature of the film.
---. The Name of the Rose. Famous murder mystery set in a 14 th century Italian abbey, also available as a DVD, but renown for its philosophical levels. Imagery, medievalism, and allusion could be taught through selections. Selections from the DVD could also supplement the reading.
Jones, Tobias. The Dark Heart of Italy. New York: North Point Press, 2003.
Supplementary background regarding contemporary Italian culture and politics, which upon “publication became the best-selling foreign language book in the nation’s history.”
Pirandello, Luigi. “The Soft Touch of Grass.” Short Shorts: An Anthology of the Shortest Stories. Eds. Irving Howe and Ilana Wiener Howe. New York: Bantam, 1982.
Interesting Pirandello short story...characterization from 3rd person limited point of view
Roberts, Edgar. V. Writing about Literature. 10 th ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003.
Excellent resource for “students who are writing about the elements of literature.” Aspects such as setting, theme, figurative language, and tone are discussed and illustrative examples given.