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 4850a/7850a: Beowulf (Spring 2024)

Posted: Jan 02, 2024 13:01;
Last Modified: Jan 24, 2024 09:01


About this course

English 4850a/7850a is a reading course in Old English focussing on Beowulf. A necessary prerequisite is previous experience reading Old English, the Germanic language of early medieval England (c. 450-1200 CE).

Important note: If you are not an English major, you may find the course is currently blocked for enrolment. This is a temporary issue: there is plenty of space in the class if you wish to take it and have the prerequisite (knowledge of Old English). I can guarantee there will be space for you.


Times and location

Office and Office Hours

My office is room B810B. I am also often in the Humanities Innovation Lab. My telephone numbers, a map, and other contact information are available on my Contact page.

I am on campus most days, but my schedule varies greatly from week to week. Please use this booking page to set up an appointment with me.

Detailed description

We will be reading Beowulf in the original and reading and writing about the poem.

Learning goals



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


In this course, I will use a combination of formative and summative assessment.

Formative assessment is graded pass/fail or Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail with the criterion for “pass” being either a good-faith effort (pass-fail) or an appropriate good-faith effort (Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail).

Summative assessment is graded in the normal university fashion (i.e. by percentage or letter grade depending on the nature of the work).

Formative assessment

Attendance and participation 20%
Weekly blogging (Jan 9-April 4) 10%
First essay (Feb 24) 10%
Research presentation (Jan 16-April 4) 10%
Mid-term exam (February 11-16) 10%

Summative assessment

Research essay (April 4) 20%
Final Exam (April 11-19) 20%


Distinction and Great Distinction badges will be available for up to 3% bonus marks


Attendance and participation

In a translation course like this, consistent participation is essential. I will be keeping track of attendance each week. Students who are present and prepared to translate, will receive 2 points for each class; students who are present but not prepared to translate will receive 1 point. Students who are absent without an excuse will receive 0 for each missed class.


Students will maintain a research and translation blog in Moodle. Suitable topics include anything arguably related to the course: translation issues, interesting pop cultural references, and so on.

There is no required format or minimum length for these blog entries, provided a good-faith effort is being made. Grading is pass/fail. If problems arise, I will discuss the matter with the student. Only if the problem can not be resolved will unsuitable blogs be penalised.

First essay

Students will write a short paper (5-10 pp/1250-2500 words) on a topic of interest to them that is connected in some way to the course material. The paper will be graded Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail. A letter grade will be assigned for information purposes, but will not be reflected in the final grade.

Research Presentation

Students will give an oral presentation (10-20 minutes) on something to do with Beowulf to the other members of the class. The presentation will be graded Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail.


At the end of the year, students will submit a research essay of original research on a topic related to Beowulf. The paper will be graded on its originality (i.e. ability to find and discuss a new aspect of Beowulf studies), the strength of its integration into previous secondary literature on the poem, and quality of writing and argumentation.


There will be a mid-term and a final exam.

The mid-term will be graded Appropriate/Inappropriate/Fail. A letter grade will be assigned for information purposes, but will not be reflected in the final grade.

The final exam will be graded summatively.

Grade scale

In my classes, I use two grading scales: one for formative work, the other for summative.

Grade scale

  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

I use this table in different ways depending on the nature of the work.

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

Submitting Work

Tests, Exams, and Quizzes

Tests and Exams will be written in the University’s Testing Centre on Moodle. Quizzes may be presented in class 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:

Class schedule

Our classwork for the semester is to read through Beowulf in Old English. This requires us to translate an average of 132 lines per class. Because the precise rate at which we translate will vary from class-to-class (we will start far below this average and end up far above it, in addition to having easier and harder days), there is no point laying out a class reading schedule in advance. Each class will take up where the previous left off and students are responsible for discovering where we are in the event that they miss a class.

Calculate how many lines-per-class are remaining

Average number of lines per remaining class:

Due dates for the assessment activities are as follows:

Lines done

Week Day Target end line target lines/class Actual End line actual lines/class Avg lines/class to go
1 R 0 0 0 0 122
2 T 25 25 25 25 124
R 58 32 52 27 127
3 T 125 73 105 53 134
R 160 55 158 53 144
4 T 232 75 209 51 149
R 280 71      
5 T          
6 T          
7 T          
8 T          
9 T          
10 T          
11 T          
12 T          




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