In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Calvino observes that the last great shift in literature at the time he was writing was Borges’s
Texts and Contexts: The Short Story
Professor Matthew Rossi
Critical Essay Assignment Two (1,200-1,500 Words; about 4-5 pages)
(Due April 9, 2014)
Instructions: The following prompts are to be used to fuel your ideas from the essay.
You may follow them as closely or loosely as you like. I will be grading based on
whether you create your own unique argument that you focus on throughout the essay.
Each prompt relates to either the work we have studied by Jorge Luis Borges or Calvino.
You may also use information or critical observations from any of the essays or letters we
have read for the class as supporting evidence. You may not use any extratextual sources
(i.e., research sources) for this assignment.
Regardless of the prompt, I want you to start your essay with a brief passage that
exemplifies a deep and interesting (i.e., not obvious) argument about the work as a whole.
Once you have explained and contextualized your passage, you may use it to argue about
the story as a whole.
NOTE: Do not start your essay with the sort of broad, generalizing statements or blanket
summaries that one often begins an essay with (i.e., “Throughout history…” or
“Webster’s Dictionary defines southern as…”, etc.). Stick to explaining and arguing
from your passage and with evidence from the story.
Choose from one of the following prompts (presented here more or less in order of
1. In Six Memos for the Next Millennium, Calvino observes that the last great shift in
literature at the time he was writing was Borges’s. He writes, “The idea that came
to Borges was to pretend that the book he wanted to write was already written by
someone else, some unknown hypothetical author—an author in a different
language, of a different culture—and that his task was to describe and review this
invented book” (Calvino 50). For this prompt, play Borges’s game. Pretend that
you are reviewing a book written in another language that responds in some way
to the philosophies (Hume, Berkeley, or Schopenhauer) expressed in Borges. It is
up to you to produce direct quotes from the book you have invented and to use
these quotes to build an argument about the expression of these philosophies in
the work of Borges. Please include proper MLA citation for your quotes and a
bibliography that includes the invented book.
2. We have discussed a method of understanding stories from a Russian Structuralist
standpoint by looking at the separate elements of fabula and syuzhet. The
individual stories in Invisible Cities seem to deliberately fight against this
analysis, but overall the book is intended to have a narrative structure. So how
does Calvino develop that? Choose one full chapter (for our purposes, this equals
one set of italic text to the next; in other words, the larger numbered sections) and
critically analyze it according to its fabula and its syuzhet. I will ask that you
include a cover page that consists of the Fabula of the section you have chosen
(see the story “37 Seconds” for a method to approach this) and use the body of the
essay to develop your argument around how Calvino uses these structural
elements to develop an overall narrative.
3. In the memo titled “Quickness,” Calvino also makes the claim that, “in the even
more congested times that await us, literature must aim at the maximum
the concentration of poetry and of thought.” Does this suggest that online social
forms of expression, such as Twitter, may represent the very literary evolution (or
is it a revolution?) that Calvino is calling for? Using specific quotes and examples
from the two essays we have read from Six Memos for the Next Millennium, as
well as specific examples from Twitter, take a stance on this question. Argue
whether Twitter represents the ideal literary form as laid out by Calvino. You
may focus your argument on specific Twitter accounts that have gained fame in
recent years (such as the parody of Miguel Bloombito or the absurd verbal theater
of Horse_ebooks) or choose to look at a more general sampling of Twitter feeds,
but remember that you will need to demonstrate your argument with specific
4. Both Borges and Calvino worked in the realm of the fantastic, yet produced work
that is inarguably different from one another. In this essay, compare one story by
Borges and a story by Calvino to argue how (or possibly whether) the fantastic
works for each of them. What effect does each author gain from their chosen
fantasy setting and how does their use of the fantastic compare to that of the
|Academic Level||College (1-2 years: Freshmen, Sophomore)|
|Number of Pages||5 Page(s)/1375 words|