English 2029, Winter Term

Framed Narratives

frame: to shape, fashion or form.... to enclose in a border.... to falsify evidence ... to make (a person) appear guilty.

(Thursday, 19:00-21:00, McMechan Room, Killam Library)

Engl. 2029, WebCT Homepage

The women and men all favoured the telling of stories. The Decameron

David McNeil (dmcneil@is.dal.ca)

1456 Henry, #127 (494-3508) or 1434 Henry (Chair's Office 494-3411)

Office Hours: Tues. 13:30-15:30 and Wed. 9:00-11:00, please call 494-3387

This class studies the traditional technique of the "framed narrative," that is the telling of one story within another. By analyzing a series of classical examples, students consider the broader implications of such a form--i.e., what does layered fiction suggest about how stories function culturally and symbolically? Specific topics include Scheherazade's cleverness in the Arabian Nights' Entertainment, diversion in The Canterbury Tales and The Decameron (from the ennui of travel or the plague respectively), and the gothic settings of Frankenstein, Heart of Darkness, and Season of Migration to the North. By the end of term, students should have a good understanding of how important the "framed narrative" is in literary history and in the nature of storytelling itself.

Students with permanent or temporary disabilities who would like to discuss classroom or exam accommodation are asked to see the instructor as soon as possible.

WWW-Resources and E-Texts:

Assigned Excerpts (click on the following to see the specific tales studied in this class):

Method of Evaluation:

- Mid-Term and short tests (in-class) 30% (comprehension)

- group project 1 10% (tale analysis presentation, see Schedule*)

- group project 2 20% (creative sequence, due March 29)

- final exam 40% (synthesis, TBA)

- The mid-term and short-tests (30%) cannot be madeup so regular attendance is necessary to do well. The short-tests will not be announced in advance.

There will be ten study groups (five per group). These are randomly formed within WebCT. Groups are encouraged to meet regularly outside of class, but some class time will be used for group exercises. Groups may also communicate electronically (or meet in WebCT chat rooms at assigned times).

- The first group project (10%) will be a presentation to the class on one of the assigned tales (see Schedule groups *1-10). Suggested matters for consideration are

- how does the tale fit in with the frame-structure

- what is the theme(s) of the tale

- who initiates the action

- what consequences follow

- positive versus negative characterization

- episodic structure (for longer tales)

Other matters may be considered, but typically one member is responsible for each topic or the topics are examined collectively.

- The second group project (20%) is the creative sequence. Typically, four members are responsible for individual tales while the fifth member is responsible for the frame structure. An ultimate meeting between the fifth members will be necessary to create the final frame structure. These tales will be made available to the class on WebCT by March 29.

- The final exam (40%) will cover all texts studied. It will require students to synthesize the material covered over the course of the term. Students must write the exam whenever it is set in the examination schedule; there will be no exceptions.


Jan. 04 Introduction (Engl. 2029, Framed Narrative, WebCT)

" 11 Arabian Nights (King Shahryar 2-23; Merchant 24-36; Fisherman 37-73; Ali Baba 105-35)

" 18 Arabian Nights (Aladdin 136-222[*1]; Sinbad 507-76; Conc. 577-83)

" 25 Decameron (Preface; Intro. 1, 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, Concl; Intro. 2, 2.4, 2.6, 2.7, 2.8, Concl.; Into. 3, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, Concl; Intro. 4, 4.2, 4.8, 4.10, Concl; Intro. 5, 5.4, 5.8[*2], 5.9, 5.10, Concl.)

Feb. 1 Decameron (Intro. 6, 6.1, 6.2, Concl; Intro. 7, 7.1, 7.4[*3], 7.9, Concl.; Intro. 8, 8.1, 8.6, 8.8, Concl.; Intro 9, 9.3, 9.6, 9.7, 9.8, Concl.; Intro. 10, 10.5, 10.8, Concl.; Author's Concl.)

Feb. 8 Canterbury Tales (language, Gen. Pro.[1-10, *4 on portrait of the Wife of Bath])

" 15 Mid-Term Test

" 22 Study Break - no class

Mar. 1 Canterbury Tales (Knight's I, II, III, IV; Miller's[*5])

" 8 Canterbury Tales(Wife of Bath's Pro., Wife of Bath's, Host, Pardoner's Pro., Pardoner.'s[*6], Retraction)

" 15 Frankenstein ([*7-8] debate)

" 22 Heart of Darkness [*9]

" 29 [Project #2 - group presentations]

Apr. 5 Season of Migration to the North [*10]

" 25 Final Exam 19:00 - 22:00


This class will make use of WebCT, a software package designed to facilitate the use of WWW-based resources in the classroom. WebCT provides a class bulletin board, chat rooms, comprehension quizzes and other resources to assist in the learning process. What you need is access to the WWW and a high-end browser (e.g., Netscape 4.7). The creative project--i.e. each group is responsible for a 4 tale sequence--will be done as linked HTML files, which all class members may access.


Class Objectives:

To learn more about the tradition and importance of the framed narrative, to recognize its creative potential, and to engage in collaborative learning.

Last Updated: March 22, 2001