Reverse detail from Kakelbont MS 1, a fifteenth-century French Psalter. This image is in the public domain. Daniel Paul O'Donnell

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English 2400a: British Survey I (Fall 2009)

Posted: Sep 03, 2009 09:09;
Last Modified: Jan 01, 2010 12:01



Times and location

Mon/Wed/Fri, 10:00-10:50, A580 (Subject to Change).

Office and Office Hours

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

I hold regular office hours at the following times:

I am also available by appointment. You can out more about my schedule this semester by visiting my Office Hours web page.

About this course

English 2450 introduces students to the earlier history of British literature, beginning with the earliest known literature in English and concluding with the rise of the characteristic modern literary form, the novel.

The Calendar describes the course in this way:

English literature from its beginnings to 1800 in relation to historical and social contexts. Selected and representative works of such writers as Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Dryden, Pope and Swift.

Students often take courses like British Survey I as a way of building a foundation for more advanced work in specific sub-fields or periods. For this reason a major goal of this course will be to read as much as possible in the time available to us—and read it in ways that allow us to develop a sense of the historical, linguistic, political, and cultural context in which our authors were working. This means in turn that this is a reading- and writing-intensive course: you will be asked to read a large number of works in a relatively short period of time and to write a relatively large number of tests and essays in order to help you ensure that you internalise this reading.

If you enter this process with a spirit of discovery and engagement, this should be a very exhilarating semester: you will have worked very hard but you will know much more about English literature at the end of the semester than you did at the beginning.

Learning goals

By the end of the course students should have a strong sense of the major periods of British literature from its beginnings to about 1800. They should be familiar with the works of several traditional canonical authors and have a sense of other interesting works from the same periods. In future years, this training should both enrich students’ enjoyment of literature by providing a solid historical grounding and help them become better scholars by providing them with a wealth of comparative material and a strong understanding of the English literary tradition.



*Note: These two books are available together in a specially discounted package at the University Bookstore.


I will be using the following assessment scheme in this course:

Category Percentage
Attendance 5%
Quizzes and Participation 10%
Blog 15%
Essays (average of best 2/3) 35%
Content Reviews (average of best 2/3) 35%

Attendance. Attendance is worth 5% of your total grade. Attendance is important in literature courses because your classmates need your participation in group work and discussion. As a result you will lose 1% for every unexcused absence, to a maximum of 5%. Students with more than 5 unexcused absences will not be eligible for any bonus marks awarded during the year.

Participation. Participation is worth 5% of your total grade. Your participation will be evaluated through quizzes and your willingness to complete small tasks—completing a profile on Moodle, preparing position papers, group work, being prepared for class discussion, etc.—on time. Most participation exercises will be marked pass fail.

Class Notes and Weekly Blog. Each student in the class will be asked to keep notes of class discussion and lecture at least once in the course of the year. All students are also expected to write a blog entry at least once a week throughout the semester. All work in this category will be graded pass/fail. Your final grade will consist of a simple average of your participation in the notes and blog.

Essays. There are three essays in this course:

Your grade for this category will consist of the average of your best two scores.

Content Reviews. There are three content reviews in this course:

All reviews are to be written on Moodle in the Testing Centre. Your final grade in this category will consist of the average of your two best scores.


The following policies will be followed in all my classes unless otherwise announced. You are expected to be familiar with the policies reproduced here and in the more general section on my website. These additional web pages are to be considered part of this syllabus for the purposes of this course. Failure to conform to any of these policies may result in your grade being lowered.

Grade scale

The University of Lethbridge keeps track of student performance using a letter and grade point system (See section 4 of the University Calendar). Instructors assign students a letter grade at the end of each course (the University does not issue or record mid-term grades). These letter grades are converted to a numerical value (a Grade Point) for assessing overall academic performance (a Grade Point Average or GPA). The University does not record percentage-type grades and does not have a fixed scale for conversion from percentage scores to letter grades and grade points. Each instructor is responsible for determining their own methodology for determining students’ final letter grade.

In my classes, I use the following letter-grade to percentage correspondences:

  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

How your grade is determined depends on the type of work being assessed. Tests of specific skills or knowledge (such as identification questions in literature classes, or fact-oriented tests in my grammar and language classes) are usually assigned a numeric score which is easily converted to a percentage. Essays, presentations, and other performance-oriented tests are usually graded by letter. I convert letter grades to percentages by taking the median value in each grade-range, and rounding up to the nearest whole percent. The only exceptions are A+ (which is converted to 100%), and F (which is converted to an arbitrary percentage between 0% and 49% based on my estimation of the work’s quality). These scores can be found in the conventional value row of the above table.

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 your work is excellent; a B means your work is good; a C means it is satisfactory; a D that it is barely acceptable (minimal pass); and an F that it is failing to meet University-level standards.

I have prepared rubrics for most types of qualitative assignments (assignments that do not expect the student simply to provide a correct factual answer). These can be found in my Academic Policies section:

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s testing labs on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented 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:


This course uses plagiarism detection software. Any plagiarism will be treated very seriously: you can expect to receive a grade of 0 on the assignment as well as other penalties depending on the seriousness of the offence.

Class schedule

The following schedule is intended to help you plan your work for this course. The schedule is tentative and subject to change.

Week Date Topic Reading
1 Mon. 7/9 Labour Day (no class)
Wed. 9/9 Welcome Syllabus and assessment
Fri. 11/9 Origins of English Literature: The Anglo-Saxons
  • “Introduction to the Medieval Period: History, Narrative and Culture, and England Before the Norman Conquest” (1-12)
  • “History of the Language and of Print and Manuscript Culture” (34-35)
2 Mon. 14/9
  • Lecture:
    • Anglo-Saxon Alphabet
    • Brief introduction to Bede and Gildas
  • Discussion:
    • Characterising Bede and Gildas as writers: How are they familiar to us? How are they different?
    • How do Bede and Gildas differ in their use of common material? How are they the same?
Tue. 15/9 Last day for course add/drop and registration
Please complete your profile on Moodle (with picture and statement of interests) by midnight tonight.
Wed. 16/9
  • Lecture:
    • Essay expectations and procedures
  • Discussion:
    • Religious conversion as a personal and/or political act
    • Bede’s attitude towards paganism as reflected in treatment of Coifi
    • The paradoxical negativity of Coifi’s conversion
  • Bede, from Ecclesiastical History of the English People:
    • Life and Conversion of King Edwin; Faith of East Angles (40-45)
Fri. 18/9
  • Lecture:
    • Old English poetic form
  • Discussion:
    • Cædmon’s “miracle”
    • Poetic taste and historical distance
  • Bede, from Ecclesiastical History of the English People:
    • Abbess Hild of Whitby (45-48 [first three lines of page only])
    • “The Miraculous Poet Cædmon” (48 [from line 4]-49)
    • “Cædmon’s Hymn in Old and Modern English” (49)
  • Old English Metre: A Brief Guide
3 Sun. 20/9 Essay 1 Due (23:59)
Mon. 21/9  
Wed. 23/9  
Fri. 25/9 Instructor Absence (No Class)
4 Mon. 28/9  
Wed. 30/9 In Class Workshop: What Makes a Good Essay. Tips and Tricks
Fri. 2/10 In Class Workshop: Bibliography and Citation
5 Mon. 5/10  
  • Beowulf (57-101, and supplemental materials)
Wed. 7/10  
  • Beowulf (57-101, and supplemental materials)
Fri. 9/10 Conclusion  
6 Content Review 1
Tuesday October 13-Sunday 18 (Testing Centre)
Mon. 12/10 Statutory Holiday (no class)
Wed. 14/10 In Class Workshop: Grammar and Style I
Fri. 16/10 In Class Workshop: Grammar and Style II
7 Mon. 19/10 Tutorial: Contemporary Literary Study and the Role of the Survey Course  
Wed. 21/10  
  • “Introduction to the Medieval Period: England after the Norman Conquest” (12-34)
Fri. 23/10 No class due to instructor illness (Flu quarantine).
8 Mon. 26/10  
  • Middle English Lyrics (123-130)
Wed. 28/10  
  • Marie de France, Lanval (107-122)
Fri. 30/10  
  • Chaucer, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale” (from The Canterbury Tales) (282-302)
9 Mon. 2/11  
  • Chaucer, “General Prologue” (from The Canterbury Tales) (220-236)
  • Chaucer’s Retraction (from The Canterbury Tales) (316-317)
Wed. 4/11  
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (144-213 [including contextual material])
Fri. 6/11  
  • Wakefield Master, Second Shepherd’s Play (372-388 [including contextual material]
10 Content Review 2
Thursday November 12-Wednesday November 22 (Testing Centre)
Sun. 8/11 Essay 2 Due (23:59)
Mon. 9/11  
  • Julian of Norwich, from A Revelation of Love (318-334)
  • Margery Kempe, from The Book of Margery of Kempe (335-350)
Wed. 11/11 Remembrance Day
Thu. 12/11 Last day for withdrawal
Fri. 13/11 No class due to instructor absence
(TEI Members Meeting)
11 Mon. 16/11 No class due to instructor absence
(TEI Members Meeting)
Wed. 18/11  
  • “Introduction to the Renaissance and the Early Seventeeth Century” (450-503
  • Tynedale’s English Bible, King James Bible, Geneva Bible, Douay-Reims Bible (538-548)
Fri. 20/11  
  • Elizabeth I (683-692)
12 Mon. 23/11  
  • Discussion of Essays
Wed. 25/11  
  • Spenser, from The Faerie Queene Book 1 (573-647)
Fri. 27/11  
  • Christopher Marlowe, The Tragical History of Dr. Faustus (750-779)
13 Mon. 30/11  
  • Donne, from Songs and Sonnets (905-913)
  • Donne, from Holy Sonnets (925-927)
Wed. 2/12  
  • Introduction to the Restoration and Eighteenth Century (1062-1098)
  • Samuel Johnson, “On the Vanity of Human Wishes” (1504-1509)
  • Samuel Johnson, Prose (1509-1521)
Fri. 4/12  
  • Eliza Haywood, Fantomina; or, Love is a Maze (1457-1477 [i.e. including supplementary material])
14 Mon. 7/12  
  • Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
Wed. 9/12  
  • Daniel Defoe, Moll Flanders
Fri. 11/12 Conclusion  
Sun 13/12 Essay 3 Due (23:59)
Exam Period 14/12-22/12 Final Exam (Moodle)

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