ENGL 3376

Please note: I will not be teaching this course in the coming year; however anyone interested in the study of medieval literature should consult with me about other options.

Fall 2014   |  Half unit of credit | Wednesday 4:30 – 7:00 p.m. | Classroom: Seton 526
Dr. Anna Smol  | Office:  Seton 510  | Email: anna.smol@msvu.ca  | @AnnaMSmol
Hours:  During the Fall 2014 term: drop in on Tuesdays and Thursdays 1:30-2:00 or Wednesdays 3:00-4:00; or make an appointment for another time during the week

Course description

In this course, you will read two of the best-known poets of the fourteenth century writing in Middle English: Geoffrey Chaucer and the Gawain poet.  Our main focus will be Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, an anthology of different types of stories, from philosophical and pious to comic, satiric, and bawdy. We will also read a masterpiece in the Arthurian tradition, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, by an anonymous author writing in a different style and dialect from Chaucer.

Pre-requisites: Although the minimum requirement for an upper-level seminar course such as this one is successful completion of one unit of literature at the 1000 level, it is strongly recommended that you have some experience in a 2000-level English course before registering in a senior seminar.

Course aims

Successful completion of this course will accomplish several aims. You will learn about some of the major authors and genres in medieval English literature, thus extending your knowledge of the English literary tradition and possibly challenging your preconceptions about the society and literature of this time. You will learn to read Chaucer’s work in Middle English, which will also give you an awareness of the history and development of the English language, including a look at the different dialect of the Gawain poet. You will gain experience communicating ideas orally and in writing. While acquiring a knowledge of research conventions and resources, you will be able to investigate topics that interest you, ranging from the nature of fiction, authorship, canonicity, and authority, to ideas on fate and fortune, to representations of gender, sexualities, race, and marriage – to name just a few of our recurring subjects of discussion. You will have an opportunity to respond to the texts through various creative arts.

Course texts

The Canterbury Tales - Second EditionThe Canterbury Tales. Geoffrey Chaucer. 2nd edition. Edited by R. Boenig and A. Taylor. Broadview Editions.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Facing Page TranslationSir Gawain and the Green Knight: Facing Page Translation.  James Winny. Broadview Press.

A writing guide.  I will  recommend print and online sources, including The English Department Essay Guide, available in the department office, Seton 533, in September.

A time management system, in either print or electronic format.


The evaluation scheme in this course is divided into several small portions, none worth more than 30% and even these subdivided into smaller units. In this way, no single requirement can totally derail your final grade; however, to be successful with this evaluation scheme, you must work with consistent effort in a sustained manner in this course by attending all classes and keeping up with the assigned work each week. Please see “Workload” in the Policies section below. Complete details for each assignment will be discussed in class, explained in handouts, and posted on the Moodle course site.

Memorization assignment: 10%
This requirement must be completed in order to receive a passing grade in this course. To be done by September 24.

Recitation assignment: 10%
This requirement must be completed in order to receive a passing grade in this course. November 19.

3 short quizzes: 10% each = 30%
Each quiz must be passed before undertaking the next quiz. You will be allowed to rewrite each quiz until it receives a passing grade, but no quizzes can be written after December 2. These quizzes will demonstrate your understanding of the Middle English passages we have discussed in class and will give you an opportunity to comment briefly on significant themes and techniques.

Participation: 20%
This is a senior seminar course, so participation in discussions is expected in all classes. You will occasionally be asked to write brief in-class responses to our material or to write at home, often in the Moodle discussion forums or the wiki. Any work to be done outside of class will be discussed in class and explanations posted on the Moodle site. These participation exercises will not be listed in the course syllabus, as they depend on the progress and needs of students in each class as we go along. You are responsible for checking the Moodle site at least twice a week to keep informed or for reminders about participation exercises, reading assignments, and other items.

Research project: 30%
The research project will be divided into smaller tasks,  including an annotated bibliography, a thesis and abstract, and the final essay. Deadlines and instructions for these portions of the project will be discussed in class, included in a handout, and posted on the course Moodle site.


You are expected to check the course Moodle site at least twice a week to make sure that you are up-to-date on assignments, readings, and announcements. The printed syllabus will list readings that should be done before coming to class (with the exception of the first class). Of course, the reading of literary criticism that is part of your research project will not be listed in the printed syllabus. In-class and at-home participation exercises also will not be listed in the printed syllabus, since they are dependent on the progress and needs of students in each class. You will, however, find all of these assignments and exercises posted in the weekly outline of the Moodle site as we go through the term.  All assignments, required readings, and at-home participation exercises will be announced and explained in class before being posted on Moodle.


Correct use of language is one of the criteria included in the evaluation of all written assignments. You are also expected to make an effort to use language correctly in all non-graded written materials that you submit, including emails to the instructor and discussion posts to the class.

Plagiarism and Cheating:
As members of a global scholarly community, we are all expected to abide by certain standards of academic integrity; therefore, university regulations on plagiarism and cheating and other academic offenses will be strictly enforced. These regulations including applicable procedures and penalties are detailed in the University Calendar under “Academic Offences.” You are held responsible for informing yourself about the definition and the penalties outlined in the Calendar. In addition, I will explain to you in class what constitutes plagiarism and cheating, but if you have any doubts at all, you are required to consult with me before handing in any assignment or excuse. Also, please note the definitions of “Misrepresentation” in the Calendar, including: “Misrepresenting or involving others in misrepresenting one’s personal circumstances in order to obtain special consideration in one’s academic work.”

You should be aware that for every hour spent in class an average of two hours of preparation will be required outside of class on a sustained basis. “Normal Course Load” in the University Calendar contains a more complete explanation: “Students should be aware that a considerable amount (an estimated average is two hours of preparation for each hour of class time) of outside preparation is required throughout each term on a sustained basis. Those students who combine family and workplace responsibilities with university study may find it necessary to adjust their course load or to modify non-study commitments to manage effectively.”

Students with disabilities:
If you have a disability and require academic accommodations, you must register with Disability Services as early as possible in order to receive accommodations.

Academic regulations of this university state: “Regular attendance is expected of students at all classes…. It is the prerogative of the instructor to determine when a student’s scholastic standing in any course is being affected adversely by absence. The instructor then, in consultation with the appropriate Dean, will determine whether or not the student should be dismissed from the course. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the instructor of any justifiable reason that causes an absence from class” (University Calendar). It is very important that you understand the complete regulations on Class Attendance in the Calendar. You will be expected to conduct yourself in a professional manner and to notify me if you cannot come to class. You will be held responsible for knowing what discussion topics or assignments were announced in class whether you attended the class or not.

If you are going to miss only one class (i.e. one week), all that is required is a voice mail or e-mail message notifying me of your absence in order to avoid any penalties for missed class assignments. If you will be missing more than one week of classes in a row, you will be expected to provide appropriate documentation such as a doctor’s note to verify your absence and to excuse you from receiving a grade of zero for any class work given during the period of absence.

Late assignments will have one grade level deducted for every 24-hour period beyond the deadline. In other words, if an assignment is due on November 15 at 10:30 a.m. and it is handed in on November 15 at 5 p.m., the essay will have one grade level deducted from its mark —  for example, an A- would turn into a B+, a B+ would turn into a B, and so on. Weekends will count the same as weekdays. If you are not handing in assignments directly to me, they should be emailed to me as attachments. Specific instructions for assignment submissions will be given in class. Whenever you submit an assignment by email, you should check to make sure that I send you a confirmation of receipt of your assignment – that’s the only way you’ll know that your assignment has been officially submitted.

If you have a valid excuse for being late, which has been discussed with me before the deadline, you will be exempted from the late penalty. In return for you meeting the assignment deadlines, I will undertake to return all graded assignments within two weeks of receiving them. Any failure on my part to meet this marking deadline will result in the postponement of the next assignment deadline.

Moodle site:
This course uses a Moodle site to supplement the work done in class. You will be expected to check the Moodle site at least twice a week. You will occasionally be asked to participate in class discussions on Moodle or to work on collaborative projects on the Moodle wiki. These features of Moodle will be demonstrated in class.

I will be pleased to discuss with you any concerns or ideas about the course work and to go over rough drafts of assignments or to review graded work, either during my posted office hours on a drop-in basis or at other specific times by previous appointment. I will also answer questions by email, but I do not guarantee immediate and 24-hour service – you should note that it may take up to two days to receive an answer by email (although I usually am able to respond faster than that).

Cell phones and other equipment:
All phones and other devices must be adjusted so that they will not make any noise during class time. No recording equipment is allowed in class except by my prior permission.

Class cancellations: If a class has to be cancelled for reasons other than general university closure, a message will be posted on the course Moodle site as soon as possible. Whenever a class is cancelled, please check the Moodle site for instructions on how to make up for the lost class. A message about cancellations should also appear on the MSVU Class Cancellation Updates webpage: http://www.msvu.ca/en/home/studentservices/ClassCancellation.aspx

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