English 3601a: Chaucer (Spring 2016)

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: UH D631.

Office and Office Hours

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

My office hours are TBA for Spring 2016.

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. (note: The bookstore has bundled this book with A companion to Chaucer at a reduced price).
  • —. 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.
  • Amtower, Laurel and Jacqueline Vanhoutte. A companion to Chaucer and his contemporaries. Peterborough: Broadview. (note: The bookstore has bundled this book with The Canterbury Tales at a reduced price).

Optional

Assessment

There are three types of assessment in this class: Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory, Graded Work, and Badges.

You can find a discussion of my grading methods here. Should there be a difference between the discussion of my practice there and the information presented here, the information presented here takes precedence.

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (40%)

Work in this category is awarded a grade of 100% if it is satisfactory. In some cases a letter grade will also be assigned for formative purposes, although this is advisory and will not count towards your final grade. Students have the option of resubmitting or otherwise making up one piece of unsatisfactory work. Distinguished work in this category is eligible for a “Great Distinction” or “Distinction” badge. In the case of the blogs, badges are awarded on the amount of work done: students who write an average of 1.5 satisfactory blogs a week throughout the year will receive a “Distinction” badge; students who write an average of 2 blogs a week will receive a “Great Distinction” badge.

Blogs (weekly) 15%
Short essay or unessay (Due 21/2 on Turnitin) 15%
Prospectus 5%
Poster and presentation (last class) 5%

Graded work (50%)

Work in this category is awarded a letter grade or percentage, depending on the nature of the work (for converting between letter grades and percentages, see grade scale below). This grade is used in calculating your final grade in the course. Graded work cannot be redone or otherwise made up. I reserve the right to award badges for graded work of truly exceptional quality.

Final unessay or essay (guideline: 4000-8000 words or equiv) (due 17/4 on Turnitin) 25%
Final Exam (18/4-26/4 in the Testing Centre [on Moodle]) 25%

Badges (10%)

Badges are a form of distinction rather than a grade per se. Except in the case of blogs, where they are assigned at various participation thresholds, badges are intended to recognise exceptional quality work and are very difficult to get. There are two badges, corresponding to the University’s honours of “Great Distinction” and “Distinction.”

Great distinction 3.5%
Distinction 1.5%

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.

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

Week Date Topic Reading Assignment
1 Tue. 5/1 No class
Thur. 7/1 Welcome Syllabus, assessment, and language  
2 Tue. 12/1 Introduction and Short Poems
Close group reading
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Last day to add/drop
Thur. 14/1 Close group reading
  • “Lack of Steadfastness” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
3 Tue. 19/1 Close group reading
  • “To Rosemounde” (ed. Lynch)
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 21/1 Class discussion
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 1: “Politics and Ideology in the Fourteenth Century.”
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
4 Tue. 26/1 Class discussion
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 28/1 Introduction to the Canterbury Tales
  • Boenig and Taylor, Introduction
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 2: “‘From every shires ende’: The structure of society”
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
5 Tue. 2/2 Class discussion
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 7: “‘Magyk natural’: Science, Medicine, Psychology, and Alchemy”
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 5/2 Class discussion
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 6: “‘Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche’: Reading Literacy, and Education.”
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
6 Thur. 9/2 Class discussion
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 3: “‘Holy thought and werk’: Religious life, ritual, and prayer”
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 11/2 Class discussion
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 5: “‘Truthe and Honour, Freedom and Curtesie’: War, Pageantry, and the Knighthood”
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Mon. 15-Fri 19/2 Reading Week (no class)
7 Sun. 21/2 Short Paper Due (2000-2600 words or equiv) (Midnight on Turnitin)
Tue. 23/2 Class discussion
  • Knight’s Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 25/2 Class discussion
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 3: “‘Of mete and drynk’: Daily life in medieval England.”
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
8 Tue. 1/3 Class discussion
  • Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
  • Amtowerand Vanhoutte, Chapter 8: “‘To Flaundres wol I go’: International influences and exchanges”
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 3/3 Class discussion
  • Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
9 Tue. 8/3 Class discussion
  • Friar’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 10/3 Class discussion
  • Summoner’s Prologue and Tale
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
10 Tue. 15/3 Class discussion
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 17/3 Class discussion
  • General Prologue
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
11 Tue. 22/3 Introduction to Troilus and Criseyde Read the Introduction in Barney Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 24/3 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
12 Sun. 27/3 Prospectus Due (Midnight on Turnitin)
Tue. 29/3 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 31/3 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
13 Tue. 5/4 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names M-Z (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 7/4 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: Last names A-L (Due midnight before class)
14 Tue. 12/4 Class discussion
  • Troilus and Criseyde
Blog: All students (Due midnight before class)
Thur. 14/12 Poster Slam
  Sun. 17/4 Research Project (4000-8000 words or equiv) due on Turnitin
Exam Period Final Exam 18/4-26/4

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