English 3601a: Chaucer (Fall 2013)

This is a preliminary syllabus. It is subject to change before the last day of the Add/Drop period.

About this course

English 3601 introduces students to the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the best known English poet of the high middle ages. This course is a companion to English 3401, Medieval Literature, and English 3450, Old English.

This section takes a constructionist and collaborative approach to student learning. Students will be expected to take responsibility for the direction of their learning under the mentorship of the instructor.

Times and location

  • Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:05-4:20pm
  • Location: W561.

Office and Office Hours (Subject to change)

My office is room B810B. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information are available on my Contact page.

Mon 13:30-14:30
Tues [By appointment 1900f Appointment
Wed 11:00-12:00
Thur 12:05-13:30
Fri 14:30-15:30

Detailed description

English 3601 introduces students to the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, the best known English poet of the high middle ages.

The Calendar describes the course in this way:

The writings of Geoffrey Chaucer, including selected minor works and major works such as The Canterbury Tales and Troilus and Criseyde.

As this suggests, our main goal will be to become familiar with this canonical English poet. This will involve learning about his language and time and of course reading his works.

Reading Middle English requires some effort on the part of students, though our textbooks are well glossed. In addition, Chaucer’s period was quite different from our own in many ways. An important part of our work this semester, therefore, will involve probing our own understanding of this author and his work. What do we need to know in order to understand Chaucer?

Answering this will require us to engage in active reading. As the semester progresses, students will be expected to keep a weekly research journal in which they report on the questions they developed and what they did to go about answering them.

Learning goals

The principal goals of this course are to learn to read and respond to Chaucer in the original Middle English with confidence. By the end of the course, students will be expected to demonstrate:

  • A fluency in reading Chaucer’s Middle English
  • A detailed knowledge of Chaucer’s major works and selected minor works
  • A familiarity with the history and culture of Chaucer’s society and a knowledge of the outlines of Chaucer’s career and importance to contemporary and subsequent literary history
  • An ability to formulate and answer appropriate research questions in Chaucer studies.

Texts

Required

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey, Canterbury Tales. Ed. Robert Boenig and Andrew Taylor. Peterborough: Broadview.
  • —. Dream Visions and Other Poems. Ed. Kathryn L. Lynch. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2006.
  • —. Troilus and Criseyde. Ed. Stephen A. Barney. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 2006.

Optional

Assessment (Subject to change)

There are two kinds of assessment in the class, Formative and Summative.

Formative Assessment is intended to assist students gauge how well they are learning the material of the course. This material is graded on a 100%/0% basis: if your work shows you have made a good faith effort to do the assignment, you will get 100%; if it doesn’t or you don’t hand it in, you will get 0%. For some formative assignments I will also assign a letter grade. This is intended to give you a more fine-grained sense of your performance but only your best two formative letter grades will count against your final grade.

Summative Assessment is intended to let others know how well you learned the material of the course (i.e. the people who to whom you give your transcripts). This material is graded on basis of a standard letter grade.

Formative assessment

1) Attendance 10%
2) Seminar Leadership 20%
3) Letter of Intent 5%
4) Prospectus 20% + Letter Grade
5) Poster 10% + Letter Grade
6) Poster Presentation (“Slam”) 5%
7) What I did/did not know about Chaucer, his age, contemporaries, or culture 10% + Letter Grade
8) Middle English Pronunciation 10% + Letter Grade
9) Translation and content review 10% + Letter Grade

Summative Assessment

Assignment Value
A) Average of Formative Exercises 20%
B) Average of Best Two Formative Letter Grades 10%
C) Blogs 20%
D) Research Project/Essay 30%
E) Final Exam 20%

Grade scale

  Excellent Good Satisfactory Poor Minimal pass Failing
Letter A+ A A- B+ B B- C+ C C- D+ D F
Percent range 100-94 93-90 89-86 85-82 81-78 77-74 73-70 69-66 65-62 61-58 57-50 49-0
Conventional value 100 92 88 84 80 76 72 68 64 60 56 49-0
Grade point 4.0 3.7 3.3 3.0 2.7 2.3 2.0 1.7 1.3 1.0 0

I use this table in different ways depending on the nature of the work.

  • For tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in grammar and language classes), I usually assign a numeric score, which is easily converted to a percentage.
  • For essays, presentations, and other qualitatively evaluated work, I usually grade by letter. This is then converted to a percentage using the third row (“Conventional value”). Thus a letter grade of “A,” for example, will be converted to 92% for purposes of calculation. A letter grade of “D+” will be converted to 60%. A grade of “F” is assigned an arbitrary percentage based on my sense of your performance. Usually this is a common fraction (e.g. 40%, 33.4%, 25%, 10%).

In marking work I try to keep the University’s official description of these grades in mind (a description can be found in the University Calendar, Part IV.3.a). If you get an A it means that I think that your work is excellent; a B means that I think that your work is good; a C means that I think that it is satisfactory; a D that I think that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that I think that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s Testing Centre on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented in class on Moodle.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and Password) will be made available in our class space on Moodle: http://moodle.uleth.ca/

Class schedule (Subject to change)

Week Date Topic Reading Assignment
1 Tue. 3/9 No class
Thur. 5/9 Welcome Syllabus, assessment, and language Scott Kleinman, Introduction to Middle English.
2 Tue. 10/9 Introduction and Short Poems
Close group reading
  • “Words of Chaucer to his Scribe Adam” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Last day to add/drop
Thur. 12/9 Close group reading
  • “Lack of Steadfastness” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
3 Sun. 15/9 “What I didn’t know…” due Midnight on Turnitin.
Tue. 17/9 Close group reading
  • “To Rosemounde” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 19/9 Seminar 1
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
4 Sun. 22/9-Sun. 30/9 Language and comprehension review (testing centre)
Tue. 24/9 Discussion
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 26/9 Introduction to Troilus and Criseyde Read the Introduction in Barney Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
5 Tue. 1/10 Seminar 2
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 3/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
6 Tue. 8/10 Seminar 3
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 10/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
7 Tue. 15/10 Seminar 4
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 17/10 Discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
8 Tue. 22/10 No class (Instructor absence) (Subject to change)
Thur. 24/10 No class (Instructor absence) (Subject to change)
9 Sun. 27/10 Letter of intent due (Turnitin)
Tue. 29/10      
Thur. 31/10 Introduction to the Canterbury Tales
  • Boenig and Taylor, Introduction
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
10 Tue. 5/11 (test). Seminar 5
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 7/11 Discussion
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
11 Tue. 12/11 (test). Seminar 6
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 14/11 Discussion
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
12 Sun. 17/11 Prospectus Due (Midnight on Turnitin)
Tue. 19/11 Seminar 7
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 21/11 Discussion
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
13 Tue. 26/11 Seminar 8
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 28/11 Discussion
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
14 Tue. 3/12 Seminar 9
  • Parson’s Prologue and Tale
  • Chaucer’s Retraction
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 5/12 Poster Slam
15 Sun. 8/12 Research Project Due on Turnitin
Exam Period Final Exam

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