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 4600a: Beowulf (Spring 2021)

Posted: Jan 11, 2021 14:01;
Last Modified: Jun 25, 2021 15:06


About this course

In this course we will read the poem Beowulf in the original Old English. The principal focus of the course will be reading the poem above all else: it can be difficult to read the entire poem in a semester, though every class I’ve taught has managed in the end.

Because we will be reading Beowulf in the original Old English, the course has a mandatory prerequisite: English 3450 (Introduction to Old English) or an equivalent course or preparation. You must already know how to read Old English in order to take this course.

Learning goals

The goal of the course is to read Beowulf. By the end of the course you should be


Time and location


Contact information

My email is

My office hours (starting January 19) are:

Please see the Class Moodle for location information (on Zoom).

If you can’t make my office hours, I am also available by appointment



  1. to assist you in finding the specific copies we will be using, I have provided ISBN information for the books you are required to purchase. The format used in this list is not the same as that required for the works cited list for your formal essay.



[1]. All exercises under this category are of equal weight. I reserve the right to add or subtract participation exercises during the year. “Translation preparedness” is measured negatively: if you attend regularly and are usually prepared, you will receive full marks; only in the (rare) case of students who repeatedly come to class repeatedly unprepared will marks be deducted.

[2]. All exercises under this category are of equal weight. Exceptional work may be eligible for badges.

[3] Up to three blogs published in any one week may be counted for credit (though you are welcome to publish more than three). If you publish more than one blog, then the first one counts for 1 point and the second and third 1/2 point each (i.e. a maximum of 2 points in any one week). For the purposes of calculating grades, the week ends Tuesday night at Midnight (i.e. anything published after 00:00 on Wednesday belongs to the following week. Please look at the about blogs page to see my (liberal and easy-going) policies on what is required and acceptable in blogs

[4] The two term tests and final exam will consist of a written and oral component.

[5] Creative/alternative work will be accepted for the final written assignment only with prior permission of the instructor. Proposals for creative/alternative work will be considered the week before Reading Week. If you are considering a creative or alternative project for your final written assignment, please ensure you prepare a proposal and book an appointment to discuss it with Professor O’Donnell.

[6]. If any your work is exceptionally high quality it may be eligible also for Badges. Badges can be applied to any piece of work and always have the same value, regardless of the underlying value of the assignment (i.e. a “Great Distinction” badge is worth 2.5% of your final grade whether it is on your final essay or your first essay.

Students may submit one piece of “Inappropriate” work for regrading, provided they accompany this with a letter explaining what changes have been made to the resubmission. Students who resubmit work for grading will receive a 2.5% penalty on their final grade.


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 on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented on Moodle.

Essays, Reports, and Posters

Essays and reports will be collected on Moodle. Unless prior permission has been given, all essays, reports, and posters must be submitted in PDF format.


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.

Assessment schedule

Since the goal of the class is to read Beowulf and each class picks up where the previous left off, there is no point providing an initial class schedule. We’ll start with line 1 and end up at line 3182 in the last week of classes.

The following is a rough schedule for assessments:

Week Date Assessment
2 17/1-23/1 First blog due
4 31/1-6/2 First term test
6 20/2 First essay due
9 14/3-20/3 Second term test
13 13/4 Second essay due
15/4-23/4 Final exam




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