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Short Story Encounters: Pathos in Action in African-American Fiction

Short stories present a panorama of styles, subjects, characters, conflicts, themes and points of view. Short stories can be read from beginning to end in one class without interruption and the reader is able to experience the author’s single effect. In fact, the short story is the best introduction to literary analysis and creative writing. Why? Because most students are able to identify the elements of a short story; yet many students get lost when asked to explain the story in depth.

This curriculum unit is designed to allow students to discover themselves and to discover the accessibility of the short story. A secondary goal of this unit is to engage students in the art of persuasion by teaching them to be aware of the wide range of emotions, decide which emotions to evoke, and learn how these emotions can be evoked in your audience. Since emotion alone does not persuade most people to feel another’s pain, joy, or embarrassment it is critical that students learn how to strategically connect their arguments to the emotions they desire to evoke in their writing. The advantage of luring the reader into a carefully constructed emotional experience is: the reader will be more likely to understand the writers perspective, the reader will be more likely to accept the writers assertions, and the reader will be more likely to act on the writers call-to-action. Accordingly, by bringing students into contact with multiple texts, having them read, analyze and write short stories they are in a position to use the tools of the writer’s craft in their persuasive writings. Students are also afforded the opportunity to deepen their knowledge of the lessons that fiction can teach. Once students understand why they react as they do to a literary work and react to each other, they can apply that information to subsequent literature and present-day real life situations.

Stacia Parker
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