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 3601a: Chaucer (Fall 2010)

Posted: Jun 22, 2010 11:06;
Last Modified: Jan 12, 2011 08:01



Times and location

Office and Office Hours

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

Office hours for Fall 2010 are:

Mon 10:30-12:00
Tues 10:50-12:05
Wed 14:00-15:00
Thur 15:00-16:00
Fri 11:00-12:00

About this course

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:





Assignment Value
Participation 5%
Language Review 10%
Final Exam 20%
Third Best Essay 15%
Second Best Essay 20%
Best Essay 25%


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 or an ‘F’ on the course.

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 using course management software (currently Moodle). Quizzes may be assigned on course management software; more commonly they will be given on paper in class.

Essays and Reports

Essays and reports will normally be collected using Turnitin. Information on our account (URL, ID number, and password) is available from our class space on our course management software:

My style sheet should be followed exactly. There are significant penalties for students who do not follow this in formatting their work for submission.

Plagiarism and Cheating

This course uses plagiarism detection software. I treat all forms of cheating, including plagiarism, with the utmost seriousness. In most cases, and especially at the senior level, students caught cheating or plagiarising will receive a grade of ‘F’ for the course and a letter to the Dean for inclusion in their student record.

Class schedule

Week Date Topic Reading
1 Tue. 7/9 No class
Thur. 9/9 Welcome Syllabus and assessment
2 Tue. 14/9 Introduction and Short Poems
Close group reading
  • “To Rosemounde” (ed. Lynch)
Last day to add/drop
Thur. 16/9 Close group reading
  • “Lack of Steadfastness” (ed. Lynch)
3 Tue. 21/9 Close group reading
  • “Envoye to Bukton” (ed. Lynch)
Thur. 23/9 Section by Section Summary
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch)
4 Sun. 26/9-Sun. 3/10 Language and comprehension review (testing centre)
Tue. 28/9 Discussion  
Thur. 30/9 Section by Section Summary
  • Book of the Duchess (ed. Lynch)
5 Tue. 5/10 Discussion  
Thur. 7/10 Essay Topic Discussion
6 Tue. 12/10 Canterbury Tales
  • General Prologue
Essay 1 Draft due on Turnitin (23:59)
Thur. 14/10 Peer Review Groups
Peer Review due on Turnitin (No later that 13:00)
You must bring print-outs of the four essays you have peer reviewed to class
7 Mon. 18/10 Essay 1 Due on Turnitin (23:59)
Tue. 19/10  
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale
Thur. 21/10  
  • Knight’s Tale
  • Cook’s Prologue and Tale
8 Tue. 26/10  
  • Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale
Thur. 28/10  
  • Summoner’s Prologue and Tale
9 Tue. 2/11  
  • Parson’s Tale and Chaucer’s Retraction
Thur. 4/11 Essay Topic Discussion
  Tue. 9/11 No class: Instructor Absence
Thur. 11/11 No class (Remembrance Day)
Friday 12/11 Last day to withdraw
10 Tue. 16/11 Troilus and Criseyde  
Thur. 18/11    
11 Sunday 21 November Essay 2 Due on Turnitin
Tue. 23/11    
Thur. 25/11    
12 Tue. 30/11    
Thur. 2/12    
13 Tue. 7/12    
Thur. 9/12    
14 Sun. 11/12 Essay 3 Due on Turnitin
Tue. 13-21/12 Final Exam




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