EN315 Earlier English Literature

for FA 2009

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EN 315 Earlier English Literature


FA 2009 HO


Dr. Lolly Ockerstrom


Assistant Professor of English


M.A., Ph.D. (English) Northeastern University, Boston
Certificate, Martha's Vineyard Advanced Seminars in Writing (NU)

Office Location

321 Copley

Office Hours

MW 11:00 a.m.- Noon; TR 8:00-8:45 and 10:00 a.m. - Noon; by appointment.



Semester Dates

17 August - 11 December 2009 (Exams: Dec. 8 - 12)

Class Days


Class Time

1:00 - 2:15 PM


En 105 and 106 or equivalent. Introductory literature courses are strongly advised.

Credit Hours



The following  books are REQUIRED TEXTS for this course. All texts are Penguin Classics published in New York and London:

         The First Poems in English. Trans., Michael Alexander.
          Anon, Beowulf: A Verse Translation. Trans., Michael Alexander.
         Anon., Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Trans., J.A. Burrow.
         Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales. Trans., Neville Coghill. Modern English translation.
         William Langland, Piers the Ploughman. Ed., J.F. Goodridge.
         Metaphysical Poetry. Ed., Chrisopher Ricks.
         John Milton, The Complete Poetry. Ed., John Leonard. 
The following text is NOT a Penguin Classic:
            Ed., Peter C. Herman. Sir Philip Sidney's An Apology for Poetry and Astrophil and Stella: Texts and Contexts. Glen Allen, Virginia: College Publishing, 2001. This text is the preferred text, as we will also be reading portions of Sidney's sonnet sequence, "Astrophil and Stella."
However, an alternate acceptable text is a Penguin Classic:
             Ed., Gavin Alexander. Sidney's 'The Defence of Poesy' and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism.
            This text is a good choice if you have a special interest in literary theory of Renaissance writers. 

Textbooks can be purchased through the Parkville Bookstore

Additional Resources:

To be given in class.

McAfee Memorial Library - Online information, links, electronic databases and the Online catalog. Contact the library for further assistance via email or at 800-270-4347.
Career Counseling - The Career Development Center (CDC) provides services for all stages of career development.  The mission of the CDC is to provide the career planning tools to ensure a lifetime of career success.
Park Helpdesk - If you have forgotten your OPEN ID or Password, or need assistance with your PirateMail account, please email helpdesk@park.edu or call 800-927-3024
Resources for Current Students - A great place to look for all kinds of information http://www.park.edu/Current/.

Course Description:
EN315 Earlier English Literature: A survey of major authors and works from the medieval beginnings of English literature to approximately 1700. Special attention to Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Milton. 3:0:3

Educational Philosophy:
Students learn in a variety of ways, and a good course will provide opportunity for creative insight through reading, writing, discussion, research, and sharing of information through oral presentations. As much as possible, I try to devise assignments to allow for individual creativity and insight based on student experience of texts. Questions are more important than tightly wrapped answers, and I value open-ended discussion that are direcly relevant to the readings. At the same time, especially when reading earlier English literature, cultural contexts provide entries into literature that speaks from a time very different from our own. In addition, humor helps, and personal experience should always be a part of reading and interpreting texts, along with informed reading strategies and appropriate critical perspectives. Reading aloud and listening to texts being read offer new insights. Keeping a reading journal or notebook is an essential components of any literature class, allowing students record and explore ideas about the literature and their reactions to the readings. And sometimes, just realizing that you love a piece of literature (or "hate" it) and sharing why the text has such an impact on you can lead to important critical perspectives.

Learning Outcomes:
  Core Learning Outcomes

  1. Discuss the nature of literary history and its relationship to political and social history.
  2. Examine “canon-formation” (i.e., how it's determined what constitute the major works of a period).
  3. Demonstrate familiarity with recent trends in English studies and the range of current approaches to literary texts.

  Instructor Learning Outcomes
  1. Demonstrate engagement by writing and discussing the readings in depth.
  2. Demonstrate openness to texts that may be difficult or perceived as "boring."
Core Assessment:

All Park University courses will include a Core Assessment with rubric. This will include ¾of the Core Learning Outcomes listed above. The Core Assessment in this course will be a major critical paper of no fewer than 5 pages, which will include research and MLA documentation. The project will be completed in the final quarter of the term.

 The rubric for this assignment is published so the student can see the expectations.

Class Assessment:

  • Attendance* (includes buying the books and bringing them to class) 
  • Participation in discussion and other activities    
  • Mid-term exam/quizzes/response paper/journal  (we will do a combination of some of these; students will have some choice, although everyone does the mid-term and the quizzes) 
  • Critical paper
  • Oral presentations
  • Final exam
*Attendance will be taken and submitted at the beginning of class. Students arriving after the first 15 minutes will be considered absent.


  • Attendance, participation, oral presentations: 25% 
  • Mid-term exam/quizzes/response paper/journal: 25%
  • Critical paper: 25%
  • Final Exam: 25% 

NOTE: Chronic lateness is disruptive to the class and will count as absences. Please make every effort to be on time.

Late Submission of Course Materials:

  • Late work is just not good: it affects class discussion, it bogs down the class for everyone else, and it's not fair to those who meet the deadlines. Plus, I tend to lose things that aren't turned in with everything else. So: in a word, don't turn in anything late.  
  • If you do try to turn in late work, don't expect sympathy from me: penalities apply (usually, the loss of one full letter grade for every day late). If you anticipate serious problems, see me well ahead of the due date. Maybe we can come to an agreement. (Then again, maybe not.)
  • Students who experience extenuating circumstances should make an appointment to speak with me well before any deadline.   
  • The mid-term exam will include both an in-class component and a take home portion. There will be NO MAKE-UP for the in-class portion of the exam, and you need to meet the deadline for the take home portion. (You can see there is a pattern here: late work is discouraged, and may not be accepted, in my classes.)
  • The Final Exam will be held during Finals Week at the time designated by the Registrar. There will be NO MAKE-UP for this exam. 

Classroom Rules of Conduct:

  • Arrive in class on time prepared with reading and other assigned work. (See policy for absences, below). 
  • Turn off cell phones, iPods, and any other electronic devices unless you have received special permission for use of such items.
  • Please eat prior to or following class period. Do not bring food into the classroom. Water is acceptable. 
  • Show respect for others through positive body language, appropriate tone of voice, and attentiveness.
  • Participate appropriately in discussion.
  • NOTE: Written assignments are due at the BEGINNING of class. Do not ask to go to a computer lab to printout homework. Do that on your own time prior to class.


Course Topic/Dates/Assignments:

The following calendar of assignments may be subject to change, although the intent is to stay on track.
Ideas for oral presentations are included in the weekly calendar, but other ideas will be provided as we move through the course. Everyone will make one presentation, which will include leading a discussion on a portion of the assigned reading for the day of your presentation. The topic of your presentation should in some way inform our reading.
WEEK I (week of 18 August): Introductions. Writing sample. Syllabus. Print out and bring a copy of the syllabus to the first class meeting. Also bring a copy of The First Poems in English.    
   The First Poems in English: Read Introduction and all poems, with special attention to:
  • "The Ruin"; Gnomic Verses; "Caedmon's Hymn"; The Exeter Riddles (read introduction to the riddles, p.9-16 and Proposed Solutions, p. 132); The Elegies ("The Wanderer" and "The Seafarer"); Love poems (all three). Think about the purpose and audience for these early poems, and consider such issues as paganism and Christianity; community; the role of women; playfulness and secrecy; the relationship between monuments and individuals.
  • Try to begin to answer the question: "Who Were the Anglo Saxons?"
WEEK II (week of 24 August): Beowulf. Translated by Michael Alexander. Read the entire poem, with special attention to: the opening of the poem; the funeral of Scyld Shefing; Beowulf's voyage to Denmark; Grendel and Grendel's mother; Hrothgar and Beowulf. Consider the emphasis on birth and bloodlines; the concept of leadership/heroism; "wergeld," and obligation.  Consider also Beowulf in the context of other Anglo-Saxon writings. Other issues: 1. Epic. What are the characteristics of epic? 2. Stylistic features of the poem (alliteration; repetition; digression and foreshadowing; the use of compound words, or "kennings"--a compressed metaphor such as "swan-road" for "ocean." 3. Themes: nobility; heroism; glory.3. Various settings. Significance of Heorot, the mead hall.  
Visit the following website and browse around! You can see digital images of the original Beowulf manuscript:
First volunteers to make short presentations on Sutton Hoo and mead halls.
WEEK III (week of 31 August):  Begin Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
 Oral presentations: chivalry; code of honor;
Visit the following website for information on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (on this website you will also find links to Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales):
WEEK IV (week of 7 Sept.): Labor Day. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
Oral presentations (see topics under Week III).
WEEK V (week of 14 Sept.):   Finish Gawain and begin Chaucer.
Oral presentations.
WEEK VI (week of 21 Sept.): Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales. Intro, General Prologue. 
Oral presentations. The pilgrimmage; dress in the middle ages.  
WEEK VII (week of 28 Sept.): Chaucer, "The Miller's Tale" and "The Reeve's Tale."
Oral presentations: labor in the middle ages: the guilds, the church.

WEEK VIII: (week of 5 October). Chaucer, Wife of Bath's "Prologue" and "Tale." Chaucer's Retraction.
         **FALL RECESS: Oct. 10 - 17**
WEEK IX (week of 19 Oct.): William Langland, Piers the Ploughman. Introduction and Part I.
Oral presentation: allegory; the Luttrell Psalter; illuminated manuscripts.
WEEK X (week of 26 Oct.):  Piers the Ploughman. Part II.
Oral presentation.
WEEK XI (week of  2 Nov.):  The sonnet: Petrarch, Edmund Spenser, Shakespeare, and Sidney.
Online resources:
         www.english.cam.ac/uk/sidney/resources.htm      (click on "Astrophil and Stella.")
         www..english.cam.ac.uk/spenser         (click on "Amoretti" and "Epithalmion")
 WEEK XII: (week of 9 Nov.): Sir Philip Sidney, Defense of Poesy. Read intro and the Defense.
WEEK XIII (week of 16 Nov): Metaphysical Poetry, Ed., Colin Burrow. Read introduction and poems (tba) by the following poets: John Donne, George Herbert, Thomas Carew, John Milton, Richard Crashaw,  Richard Lovelace, Andrew Marvell, and others.
WEEK XIV (week of 23 Nov.):  John Milton. Read introduction, the Nativity Ode, "Lycidas," "L'Allegro" and "Il Penseroso."
Online resource:       www.dartmouth.edu/~milton
         ***Critical Papers Due***
WEEK XV( week of 30 November):  Milton; "Areopagitica;" Sonnets: "On Shakespeare. 1630," "A book was writ of late," "On the Late Massacre in Piedmont," "When I Consider How my Light is Spent," . 
WEEK XVI (week of 7 December) Final Exam.

Academic Honesty:
Academic integrity is the foundation of the academic community. Because each student has the primary responsibility for being academically honest, students are advised to read and understand all sections of this policy relating to standards of conduct and academic life.   Park University 2008-2009 Undergraduate Catalog Page 87

Plagiarism involves the use of quotations without quotation marks, the use of quotations without indication of the source, the use of another's idea without acknowledging the source, the submission of a paper, laboratory report, project, or class assignment (any portion of such) prepared by another person, or incorrect paraphrasing. Park University 2009-2010 Undergraduate Catalog Page 92
Do your own work. Plagiarism will result in a failing grade for the course and possible expulsion from the University. The Academic Support Center is an excellent resource if you have questions about documentation.

Attendance Policy:
Instructors are required to maintain attendance records and to report absences via the online attendance reporting system.

  1. The instructor may excuse absences for valid reasons, but missed work must be made up within the semester/term of enrollment.
  2. Work missed through unexcused absences must also be made up within the semester/term of enrollment, but unexcused absences may carry further penalties.
  3. In the event of two consecutive weeks of unexcused absences in a semester/term of enrollment, the student will be administratively withdrawn, resulting in a grade of "F".
  4. A "Contract for Incomplete" will not be issued to a student who has unexcused or excessive absences recorded for a course.
  5. Students receiving Military Tuition Assistance or Veterans Administration educational benefits must not exceed three unexcused absences in the semester/term of enrollment. Excessive absences will be reported to the appropriate agency and may result in a monetary penalty to the student.
  6. Report of a "F" grade (attendance or academic) resulting from excessive absence for those students who are receiving financial assistance from agencies not mentioned in item 5 above will be reported to the appropriate agency.

Park University 2009-2010 Undergraduate Catalog Page 95
Attendence in class is required. Attendence includes arriving on time prepared with reading and writing assignments. Attandence also includes active participation in discussions and in all class activities. Attendance will be taken at the beginning of class.

Because this class meets twice weekly, two absences are equal to three 50-minute class periods, or one full week of class.

Classes begin on Tuesday, August 18. All students are expected to be enrolled and in class on that date.

Please observe:

1-2 absences: no penalty
3-4 absences: loss of one full grade (a grade of A will become a grade of B)
5 absences: loss of 2 full letter grades (a grade of A will become a C)
6 or more absences: failure to pass the course.

Athletes: Provide documentation, signed by your coach,for EACH absence related to your sporting schedule. This should be submitted prior to your absence. If you need a mid-term grade report, provide me with the form well ahead of the time that you need it. Read carefully the attendance requirements above. Excessive absences, regardless of reason, may result in a failure to pass the course.

Disability Guidelines:
Park University is committed to meeting the needs of all students that meet the criteria for special assistance. These guidelines are designed to supply directions to students concerning the information necessary to accomplish this goal. It is Park University's policy to comply fully with federal and state law, including Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, regarding students with disabilities. In the case of any inconsistency between these guidelines and federal and/or state law, the provisions of the law will apply. Additional information concerning Park University's policies and procedures related to disability can be found on the Park University web page: http://www.park.edu/disability .


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Last Updated:7/22/2009 2:22:19 PM