Global Literature: Short Stories

Course Description

In this class, we'll explore short stories from around the world. We'll read them and learn about their main points, like the story, characters, and themes. By talking about these stories in small groups, you'll enjoy and understand them better. Our aim is to help new readers love English literature and improve their reading and speaking skills.


Introduction to Global Literature: Short Stories

This class explains what literature is. Students learn about different kinds of literature and discuss about what makes global literature special. We look at why short stories are different from other literature. Lastly, we find out why these short stories are important. We learn how global literature short stories can change people and the world.

USA: The Gift of Magi, O. Henry

The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry tells the story of a young couple, Jim and Della, who are financially struggling but deeply in love. In order to buy Christmas presents for each other, each sacrifices their most prized possession: Della sells her beautiful long hair to buy a chain for Jim's watch, while Jim sells his watch to buy combs for Della's hair. The story highlights the irony and the depth of their love, as their gifts become meaningless in a material sense but priceless in their demonstration of sacrifice and affection.

Russia: The Bet, Anton Chekjov

In Anton Chekhov's short story The Bet" a lawyer and a banker make a wager over the value of life imprisonment versus capital punishment. The lawyer agrees to stay in solitary confinement for fifteen years to prove his point, but upon his release, he renounces the bet, having found greater wisdom and disdain for materialism through his isolation and extensive reading. The story explores themes of greed, human nature, and the transformative power of knowledge.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] UK: The Signal Man, Charles Dickens

The Signal-Man by Charles Dickens is a short story about a railway signalman who is haunted by foreboding visions that precede tragic events on the railway line. The narrator, intrigued by the signalman's tales, learns of the spectral appearances that seem to forewarn of disasters. However, the story culminates tragically when the signalman himself is struck and killed by a train, with the implication that he had seen a ghostly premonition of his own demise.

France: The Necklace, Guy de Maupassant

The Necklace by Guy de Maupassant is a tale about Mathilde Loisel, a woman who borrows a necklace to appear wealthier at a high-society ball but loses it. In an effort to replace it, she and her husband incur massive debts, only to discover years later that the original necklace was actually a cheap imitation.

South Africa: The Suit, Can Themba

The Suit by Can Themba is a poignant short story set in apartheid-era South Africa. It revolves around Philemon, who discovers his wife, Matilda, is having an affair, and as a peculiar form of punishment, he forces her to treat her lover's left-behind suit as an honoured guest. This unusual situation leads to a tragic ending, highlighting the complexities of love, guilt, and retribution.

Argentina: The Continuity of Parks, Julio Cortázar

Continuity of Parks by Julio Cortázar is a captivating short story that masterfully blends reality and fiction. It narrates the tale of a man engrossed in reading a novel, which gradually merges with his own reality. The story culminates in a thrilling twist, revealing that the narrative he reads is, in fact, unfolding in his own life, blurring the lines between the reader's world and the fictional one.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Japan: The Nose, Ryunosuke Akutagawa

The Nose by Ryunosuke Akutagawa is a story about a Buddhist priest named Zenchi who is known for his exceptionally long nose. He becomes self-conscious about it and tries various methods to reduce its size. The tale humorously explores the themes of vanity and self-acceptance, ultimately revealing that Zenchi's nose returns to its original size, reflecting the futility of his efforts.

India: The Tiger King, Kalki Krishnamurthy

The Tiger King by Kalki Krishnamurthy tells the story of an Indian monarch known as the Tiger King, who, to defy a prophecy that he would be killed by a tiger, embarks on a mission to kill 100 tigers. Despite successfully hunting 99 tigers, the King meets his demise in an ironic twist, not at the paws of a tiger, but due to a toy tiger made of wood, thereby fulfilling the prophecy in an unexpected manner. This tale highlights the futility of trying to outwit fate and the unexpected ways in which prophecies can come true.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Germany: Franz Kafka Stories, Franz Kafka

In Franz Kafka Stories by Franz Kafka, the narrative often delves into surreal, complex themes wrapped in simple, direct prose. Kafka's stories in this collection typically explore the struggles of individuals against overwhelming and often inexplicable bureaucratic systems, reflecting themes of alienation and existential anxiety. His distinctive style blends elements of realism with the bizarre, creating a unique literary experience that questions reality and human nature.

Berber: My Mother, Fadhma Amrouche

My Mother by Fadhma Amrouche is a narrative that explores the life of Fadhma Amrouche’s mother, focusing on her experiences and struggles. It delves into her journey through various challenges, highlighting her resilience and the cultural context of her life. The story is a poignant reflection on her character and the impact of her experiences on her identity.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] China: The True Story of Ah Q, Lu Xun

The True Story of Ah Q by Lu Xun is a satirical novella that portrays the life of Ah Q, a foolish and delusional character in early 20th-century China. Through his experiences and eventual downfall, the story critiques the social and political inadequacies of the time. Ah Q represents the flaws and follies of contemporary society, embodying the tragic consequences of ignorance and misplaced pride.

Columbia: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, tells of a decrepit, winged old man who mysteriously appears in a couple's backyard, sparking both awe and exploitation from the local community. Despite being thought to be an angel, he is mistreated and eventually flies away, leaving the people to ponder his existence. The story explores themes of human nature, the supernatural, and the fine line between the ordinary and the miraculous.

Mexico: Tell Them Not to Kill Me, Juan Rulfo

In Tell Them Not to Kill Me! by Juan Rulfo, an elderly man pleads for mercy after being arrested for a murder he committed many years ago. His son tries to intervene on his behalf, but the man's past actions and the relentless nature of justice leave his fate uncertain. The story delves into themes of guilt, retribution, and the inexorable passage of time.

[ON-DEMAND CLASS] Nigeria: Girls at War, Chinua Achebe

In Girls at War by Chinua Achebe, the story unfolds against the backdrop of the Nigerian Civil War, focusing on the complex relationship between Reginald Nwankwo, a government official, and Gladys, a young woman deeply affected by the war. Their interactions reflect the moral decay and challenges faced by individuals during the conflict, with Gladys's transformation from an innocent girl to a war-hardened woman embodying the devastating impact of the war on Nigerian society.