31 December 2013

Spring 2014 Syllabus for ENG331

Medieval Studies                                                 ENG331
Spring 2014                                                                                                     Prof. Mead

14        T          Introduction
16        R          Unit I:  Clans. Beowulf, ix-47 (Lines 1-687)
21        T          Beowulf, 47-81 Lines 688-1158)
23        R          Beowulf, 83-123 (Lines 1159-1784)
28        T          Beowulf, 123-213 ( Lines 1785-end of poem)
30        R          Njal’s Saga, vii-95 (Intro, Sections 1-55)
 4         T          Njal’s Saga, 95-198 (Sections 56-118)
 6         R          Njal’s Saga, 198-278 (Sections 119-145)
11        T          Njal’s Saga, 278-310 (Sections 146-159)
13        R          Unit II: Feudalism.  The Lais of Marie de France, Introduction, “Guigemar,”
                                    “Equitan,” & “Le Fresna.”
18        T          The Lais of Marie de France, “Bisclavret,” “Lanval,” & “Les Deux Amanz.”
20        R          The Lais of Marie de France, “Yonec,” “Laustic,” & “Milun.”
25        T          The Lais of Marie de France, “Chaitivel,” “Chevrefoil,” & “Eliduc.”
27        R          Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, Intro, Note, “Fitt I”
 4         T          Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, “Fitt II”
 6         R          Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, “Fitt III”
11        T          SPRING BREAK
13        R          SPRING BREAK
18        T          Sir Gawain & the Green Knight, “Fitt IV”
20        R          Unit III: Christendom. Inferno, Intro, Cantos 1-5
25        T          Advising Day, No classes
27        R NO CLASS
 1         T          Inferno, Cantos 6-10
 3         R          Inferno, Cantos 11-15
15        T          Inferno, Cantos 16-20
17        R          Inferno, Cantos 21-25
22        T          Inferno, Cantos 26-30
24        R          Inferno, Cantos 31-34
29        T          Scholars Day.  Evaluations.

Papers:  Unit I.  Kinship and law play heavily in the maintenance of order in both Beowulf and Njal’s Saga, yet both worlds are also jeopardized by threats to this order.  In Beowulf the main threats seem to come from the outside; in Njal’s Saga, the threats seem to come from within the community.  Write a thesis-driven paper that argues against one of these assertions; i.e., argue that Beowulf’s “monsters” are actually internal or that the saga’s agents of chaos are actually external to the Icelandic community. Unit II.  Bonds of kinship seem to give away in the second unit to bonds of chosen vassalage: a person’s promise becomes almost sacred to interpersonal trust. How does the “game” that Gawain plays with his Host comment upon Gawain’s promise to meet the Green Knight a year after the beheading?  How do the promises between men or between lovers presuppose a spiritual understanding of humanity in the lais of Marie? Choose either to write on SGGK or one at least three of Marie’s lais. Unit III. It seems a huge distance having moved from Heorot, the “best of halls,” in Beowulf to Dante’s conception of a universal reality in The Divine Comedy. Although we have only read the first of three books at that make up La Comedia, we see Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, and mythological creatures all engaged in the same ontology, and a very Catholic one at that.  Are there places where Dante seems to be deliberately straining his universal concept, perhaps in order to lay a passive critique to his own work?  Another topic you can choose would be to examine the nature of movement and stasis, particularly as regards morality within a geocentric universe.

All papers are to be 6-9 pages long, with 1) a clear, provocative thesis; a detailed methodology; and a case for the argument’s importance in the first paragraph; 2) topics sentences for each body paragraph that explicitly connect the paragraph’s topic with the paper’s thesis; and 3) close reading (i.e. analysis of word choice, tone, sound effects, meter, rhythm, repetition, or syntax).  Papers should also integrate at least three scholarly works (for support, challenge, data, etc.) into your argument.  All papers must be submitted with two earlier drafts that illustrate the process of your revisions.  You must complete all assignments to pass the course.  Each paper will be roughly equally weighed, although I will take into account improvement.  Late papers usually lose one decrement per day late.
Participation will count toward one full quarter of your final grade:  this is important; it means you have to do more than show up on time with the texts read and respond to my questions (such participation will earn a participation grade of “C”); you must actively and proactively engage in analysis of the texts, come to class and take the lead in questions, proposals, responses to the works, and analysis. 
Attendance is, therefore, required and expected for all of our class meetings.  More than two absences may lower your final grade (usually by one decrement per absence over two).  Students who miss more than four classes may be asked to drop the class.
Grades:            Unit I research paper:              25%
                        Unit II research paper :           25%
                        Unit III research paper:           25%
                        Participation:                           25%
Students who memorize and recite 20+ lines of Beowulf, SGGK, or Inferno (passages must be approved by instructor ahead of time) with less than five errors will have their FINAL grade boosted by one increment. It’s crazy not to do this.
Please remember that I am here to help you along with all these tasks:  reading, preparing for class discussion, freewrites, rough drafts, research, revisions, and digesting instructor comments on your work.  Take advantage!  My office hours for Spring Semester are MWF 9-10, 11-12; TR 8:30-9:30 AND BY APPOINTMENT.              I an often off-campus in the pm, but I will make it work so that anyone who wants to meet with me can.  Office OM 312b  tel. 438-4336.
Visit my blogs at http://stephenxmead.blogspot.com/ for lots of useful handouts, links, and instructions. My blog also has important policies on plagiarism.
Students with special needs must contact the instructor at the beginning of the semester and he will make all reasonable accommodations.
Required Editions:
Beowulf,  translated by Seamus Heaney. Norton, 2000.
Hjal’s Saga,  translated by Robert Cook. Penguin, 2001.
The Lais of Marie de France, translated by Glyn S. Burgess & Keith Busb, Penguin, 2003.
Sir Gawain & the Green Knight,  translated by Simon Armitage. Norton, 2007
Dante: the Inferno, translated by Robert & Jean Hollander. Anchor, 2002

“Your Majesty, when we compare the present life of man on earth with that time of which we have no knowledge, it seems to me like the swift flight of a single sparrow through the banqueting-hall where you are sitting at dinner on a winter’s day with your thegns and counsellors. In the midst there is a comforting fire to warm the hall; outside the storms of winter rain or snow are raging. This sparrow flies swiftly in through one door of the hall, and out through another. While he is inside, he is safe from the winter storms; but after a moment of comfort, he vanishes from sight into the wintry world from which he came. Even so, man appears on earth for a little while; but of what went before this life or of what follows, we know nothing. Therefore, if this new teaching has brought any more certain knowledge, it seems only right that we should follow it.”

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