English 4600b/5600b: Beowulf (Fall 2014)

About this course

English 4600b/5600b is a reading course in Old English focussing on Beowulf. A necessary prerequisite is previous experience reading Old English, the language of Anglo-Saxon England (c. 450-1200 CE).

Important note: If you are not an English major, you may find the course is currently blocked for enrolment. This is a temporary issue: there is plenty of space in the class if you wish to take it. I can guarantee there will be space for you.

Times and location

  • Time: Tues/Thurs, 10:50-12:05
  • Location: D630 (note room change)

Office and Office Hours

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

I am on campus most days, but my schedule varies greatly from week to week. Please email me to set up an appointment

Detailed description

We will be reading Beowulf in the original and reading and writing about the poem.

Learning goals

  • Improving students’ ability to read Old English (students who have read Beowulf are more than prepared for graduate study in Old English
  • Studying one of the great vernacular poems of the Middle Ages.



  1. to assist you in finding the specific copies we will be using, I have provided ISBN information for the books you are required to purchase. The format used in this list is not the same as that required for the works cited list for your formal essay.


Attendance and participation 20%
Weekly blogging 20%
Poster/Presentation 10%
Research essay 25%
Exams (Midterm and Final) 25%

Attendance and participation

In a translation course like this, consistent participation is essential. I will be keeping track of attendance each week. Students who are present and prepared to translate, will receive 2 points for each class; students who are present but not prepared to translate will receive 1 point.


Students will maintain a research and translation blog in Moodle. At a minimum, students will be expected to find, read, and report on one piece of research or teaching material on Beowulf or related topics each week. In addition to reporting on the article or other form or publication in their blogs, students will also be expected to add an entry to our group bibliographic space on Zotero. Each blog on a research article will be worth 3 marks.

Students can also use the blog to discuss other aspects of the course for bonus marks (1 mark per blog for a maximum of 2 extra marks per week). Suitable topics include anything arguably related to the course: translation issues, interesting pop cultural references, and so on.

There is no required format or minimum length for these blog entries, provided a good-faith effort is being made. If problems arise, I will discuss the matter with the student. Only if the problem can not be resolved will unsuitable blogs be penalised.


Students will present a poster and brief oral report (no more than 5 minutes) on the topic of their final paper. This poster will be in electronic form.


At the end of the year, students will submit a research essay of original research on a topic related to Beowulf. The paper will be graded on its originality (i.e. ability to find and discuss a new aspect of Beowulf studies), the strength of its integration into previous secondary literature on the poem, and quality of writing and argumentation.


There will be a mid-term and a final exam. Together, these exams will be worth 25%, with a weighting of 15% for the highest score and 10% for the lowest.

Grade scale

In my classes, I use two grading scales: one for formative work, the other for summative.

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 I think your work is excellent; a B means I think your work is good; a C means I think it is satisfactory; a D that I think it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that I think 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

Our classwork for the semester is to read through Beowulf in Old English. This requires us to translate an average of 113 lines per class. Because the precise rate at which we will do this at is impossible to predict, there is no point laying out a class reading schedule in advance. Each class will take up where the previous left off and students are responsible for discovering where we are in the event that they miss a class.

Due dates for the assessment activities are as follows:

  • Blogs: Research blogs (i.e. the discussion of an article or similar in Anglo-Saxon studies) are due by midnight on Mondays, each week. Blogs on other topics do not have any fixed due date, but will be credited to whatever calendar week they fall in.
  • Exams: The mid-term exam will be held in week 8 (October 19-25). The final exam will be held in the exam period.
  • Presentation and Poster: Posters and presentations will be due in the second last week of term (November 23-30).
  • Essay: The final paper will be due on the last class.



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