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 (Spring 2009)

Posted: Jan 02, 2009 10:01;
Last Modified: May 08, 2009 11:05



Times and location

Thursdays, 15:05-17:45, E519.

Office and Office Hours

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

You can find my scheduled office hours by following this link:

I am also available by appointment. To make an appointment, please consult my appointment schedule, and email me with a specific time or set of times.

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:




This course uses two types of evaluation, formative (intended primarily to assist students measure their progress and identify areas of improvement) and summative (intended primarily to assess students’ success in accomplishing the course’s main learning goals).

Formative Assessment

In this course there are three types of formative assignments: exercises, reviews, and preparation.

I will be assigning grades to these assignments in order to help students assess how well they are doing. In most cases, these grades will not count directly towards students’ final mark. At the end of the semester an “effort and participation” grade will be calculated by averaging the percentage of formative assignments completed, the students’ average preparation mark, and the best score achieved in each of the exercise and review categories.

I reserve the right to add additional formative assignments to these categories throughout the semester in response to class interests and needs.

Category Assignment Due
Exercises Middle English Pronunciation late February
Palaeography/Metre early April
Reviews First Review Moodle (early February)
Second Review Moodle (mid March)
Class Notes Once or twice in course of semester
Preparation “When I think of Chaucer and the Middle Ages…” In-class essay Tues 8/011
In-class quizzes (throughout semester)
Reading and Research Blog (throughout semester)

Summative Assessment

Summative Assessment is used to determine how well students have accomplished the course’s learning goals. These grades will contribute directly to the student’s final grade in the course.

Assignment Value
Effort and participation (see above) 25%
First paper (Due: February 25) 15%
Second paper (Due: April 24) 35%
Final Exam (Moodle) (Exam window: April 20-24, 2008) 25%

The summative evaluation scheme presented here should be considered tentative and open to change until the beginning of the last class before the add/drop deadline (i.e. Monday, September 8). After this date, the version found on-line will be definitive.


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

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 Readings Due
1 Thurs 8/1 Introduction
  • Chaucer’s Words to Adam (ed. Lynch)
In-class essay1
2 Last day of add/drop (Tues 13/1)
Thurs 15/1 Library and Research Orientation (Guest Instructor: Glenna Westwood) . Cancelled for personal reasons    
3 Thurs 22/1 Dream Vision
  • Parliament of Fowls (ed. Lynch) [699 ll.]
4 Thurs 29/1  
  • Book of the Duchess (ed. Lynch) [1334 ll.]
5 Thurs 5/2 Canterbury Tales
  • General Prologue (ed. Kolve and Glending) [859ll.]
  • Miller’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [746ll.]
  • Reeve’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [469 ll.]
6 Thurs 12/2  
  • Knight’s Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [2249 ll.]
  • The Cook’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [97 ll.]
Reading Week (16/2-21/2)
7 First Review (Mon 23/2-Sun 1/1)
Essay 1 due (Wed 25/2 23:59)
Thurs 26/2  
  • Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [1264 ll.]
8 Thurs 5/3  
  • Friar’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [400 ll.]
  • Summoner’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [629 ll.]
9 Middle English Pronunciation
Thurs 12/3  
  • Prioress’s Prologue and Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [255 ll.]
  • The Prologue Tale of Sir Thopas (ed. Kolve and Glending) [228 ll.]
  • from The Parson’s Tale (ed. Kolve and Glending) [11 pp.]
  • Chaucer’s retraction (ed. Kolve and Glending) [1 pp.]
10 Last day for withdrawal (Wed 18/3)
Thurs 19/3 Troilus and Criseyde
  • Troilus and Criseyde (ed. Barney) [ca. 8300 ll.]
11 Thurs 26/3     Blog
12 Second Review (Mon 30/3-Sun 5/4)
Thurs 2/4     Blog
13 Paleography and Metre
Thurs 9/4     Blog
14 Essay 2 due (Wed 15/4 23:59)
Thurs 16/4 Catchup (if necessary) or review (optional)
Exam Final Exam (Moodle). Mon. 20/4-Fri 24/4


1 Students who miss this first class will have an opportunity to make-up the in-class essay the next week.

Instructor Notes





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