Description, Goals, Procedures, and Requirements for this Course

ENGL 3710-25281: Early British Literature

Contact information

Prof. Scott A. Leonard, 243 DeBartolo Hall
330.559.1821 (M) / 330.941.1651 (O) /
Hours: TR 12:30-1:30p; W 12:00—3:00p; and by appointment

Required reading

Greenblatt, Stephen, et al. The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Major Authors. 9th ed. NY: W.W. Norton, 2006. ISBN: 978-0-393-91963-9

Course information

Credit hours: 3
Prerequisite: ENGL 3700 or concurrent with ENGL 3700 with permission of the Department Chair
Catalog description: “Beginnings to the Enlightenment. Students read a selection of British literature, emphasizing literary history and written analysis.”
Description: This course will familiarize you with the historical, cultural, political, and economic context in which early British literature was produced and consumed. We will consider the various features and functions of relevant codes of conduct, belief systems, and literary genres.

Course goals

ENGL 3710 will not be an exhaustive survey of all the relevant writings since the Anglo-Saxon period to the rise of Romanticism. We will, however, discuss some of the landmark literary achievements between the 10th and 18th centuries. This strategy has its strengths. Discussing the texts traditionally defined as the major works of this period will prepare you for such future tests as the GRE and Praxis exams. It will also give you a good basis for “getting” the allusions and references to Early British Literature so common in later, especially 19th and 20th century, literature.
But this strategy also has some significant weaknesses. We will read nothing by women writers—and there were several of note during the seven-century sweep of our course. We will also skip over quite a few additional “literary landmarks,” including such notable texts and authors as “The Dream of the Rood,” “The Pearl,” Bunyon’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Le Morte D’Arthur, Spenser’s Faerie Queen, Christopher Marlowe’s plays, any of Shakespeare’s mature works, anything written by the “metaphysical poets,” and the works of Alexander Pope.
However, if you become familiar with the historical, cultural, and political-economic contexts in which the works we do study were created and read, the primary goal of this course will have been met. Specifically, this course aims to provide you with general background information about the conventions, genres, important movements, and essential texts written by British authors between ca. 1000 and 1730 CE. Further, it is the goal of this course to provide you with sufficient experience and background to deepen your enjoyment of and experience with early British literature in later classes.

Course learning outcomes

By the end of the semester, you should be able to do the following:

Americans with Disabilities Act

In accordance with YSU policy—and basic human decency—special adaptations or accommodations are available to anyone who needs them to accomplish this course’s learning objectives. Students needing such accommodations should inform me as soon as possible.
University procedures require students with disabilities to verify their eligibility for special adaptations and accommodations through the Office of Disability Services in the Center for Student Progress (phone: 330-941-1372). Please do so at the beginning of the semester, or when given an assignment for which an accommodation is required.

Classroom procedures & basic expectations

I care deeply about creating a comfortable, lively, and productive learning environment. I have worked hard to refine my classroom practice in the past 24 years and do my utmost to present accurate information in an interesting and thought-provoking way. But I can’t make you take an interest in this course and I can’t make you learn. That’s your job. The surest way to control your destiny in this class—and to enjoy what this course has to offer—is to comply with the suggestions and familiarize yourself with the procedures that follow.
Buy the required texts. Do the required reading. As crazy as it sounds, English literature courses expect you to read texts longer than a Tweet or a Facebook status update—and I assume you will buy all the books and do all the assigned readings. In fact, as English majors, I expect you to be enthusiastic about reading new and unfamiliar things. I expect you to look forward to mastering the sometimes difficult vocabulary and formal constructions of archaic English and relish the challenge of imagining the medieval and early modern worlds and how these texts we read this semester could have been exciting and relevant to audiences back then.
Consult the course calendar. It is your job to consult the course calendar each week so you know what we’re reading and when assignments are due. EVERYTHING you need—dates, assignment sheets, and links to online readings—is available here on our course website. If you don’t know what’s going on, you aren’t paying sufficient attention. To avoid crabby remarks from me, avoid asking me what we’re supposed to be doing each week. Bookmark our “Course Calendar” in your web browser and consult it each week.
Work ahead. The reading load in this course is stiff. Most weeks we’ll work through approximately 50 pages of material. To succeed in this course, you need to plan on doing the reading by the beginning of each week. The lectures presuppose you are familiar with the details of the assigned readings. So, to get the most out of those, you need to come to them prepared.
Be courteous. Just like the airlines, please be securely in your seats with all mobile devices switched off and safely stowed when class begins. It would improve your concentration if you also were in a fully upright, seated position, but that’s optional. Exception: Mobile devices may be used to take notes. However, if I catch you texting your friends or engaging in other forms of distracted/distracting behavior, I will ask you to leave.
Come to class. This is not a correspondence course; you must be in class at least 80% of the time or risk automatic failure.  Daily attendance will be taken in the form of a sign-up sheet. Attendance will be taken promptly at the beginning of class. Our class is scheduled to meet 29 times this semester; that means that you will have to be in class at the beginning and end of class a minimum of 23 times in order to pass the course, no matter what grades you earn on the tests and other written work.
Don’t bring excuses.  Sometimes off-campus demands interfere with your education and I will both understand and sympathize with you when something urgent keeps you away.  Therefore, you don’t need an excuse when you miss class.  But every decision you make has consequences.  Missing class—even when your reason for doing so is literally life and death—is missing class.  Sometimes that means missing important information; sometimes that means missing the sign-up sheet; for sure it means running the risk of failing the course if it happens too often. I leave it to you to weigh the consequences of the choices you make and determine your own priorities.
Be on time.  You are always welcome in class no matter how late you are. However, if you happen to be so late that you miss the sign-up sheet, you risk running afoul of the 80% rule.  You will not be granted a chance to write your name on the attendance sheet once I collect it. Your only workable strategy is to be in your seat on time and ready to work!
The (Almost) Paperless Classroom. Sign-up sheets will, of course, be accomplished through paper. Otherwise, this is a paperless classroom. Therefore, you are required to submit all assignments to me as attachments in Microsoft Word.
Get confirmation! Ordinarily, I will send you an email message confirming I received your work and have stored it on my hard drive. I cannot tell whether you are a flake or the victim of a technical glitch when I don’t receive work from you by the deadline. Therefore, it is your responsibility to submit all assignments on time, in the proper format, and to follow up if you do not receive, within 24 hours, an e-mailed confirmation from me that your work was received. You are not done “handing in” your work to me until you have received an email confirming I have your work. So keep checking your email!
Use the right platform! You must send me your work as a .doc or .docx file in Microsoft Word. An .rtf or simple text file is NOT acceptable. If you do not have access to Microsoft Word or a computer at home, you will have to make time to come to campus and use one of YSU’s computer labs. Your student fees pay for this resource. (If you do own a personal computer, it is possible to buy MS Word at a significant discount at the Information Center in Kilcawley.) No assignments submitted on paper will be accepted.
Label your files intelligently! Label the Microsoft Word files you will email to me in such a way that I can distinguish your work from the other 80—100 students I have each semester. Your last name, first initial, and a brief abbreviation indicating which assignment you’re sending will be sufficient. Example: Smith R FIN tells me which student named Smith is sending me the final project for this course.
Know the workload.  In general, college-level courses assume that you will invest 2—3 hours of your time outside of class for every hour spent in class.  Our class meets 3 hours a week; the workload, therefore, is based on the assumption that you will set aside approximately 9 hours outside of class each week for our class’ work.  But, remember, getting the work done is the priority, no matter how long it takes. The reading load is challenging and it will be assumed that you’ve read, remembered, and comprehended all assigned reading on the first day of class each week.
Don’t be late!  Ordinarily, no late papers are possible in this class.  There is one exception to this rule: I am flexible about due dates if you call (or email) me so we can work out alternate arrangements.  My campus and mobile voicemail systems work and I check my email daily; stay in touch!

Grading procedures

The following is a quick-reference list of the assignments due this semester. For more details, please follow the links.
Total points possible: 430
Minimum points possible to earn an A for the course: 387
Weighing each assignment: Your grades will be based on your performance only on the written work described above.  There is no curve in this class and grades will be weighted this way:
Cumulative Reading Tests
100 pts.
Lit. Search
50 pts.
50 pts.
Research Paper
200 pts.
Class Evaluation Memo
30 pts.
430 pts.
Grades for all out-of-class work will be assigned according to the following scale:
The above scale will determine how many points your assignments can earn.  For example, the Prospectus is worth 11% of your final grade, or 50 points.  If you earn a C on it, you will earn 75% of 50 points, or 37.5 points.  I will convert, in this way, all graded assignments from letters to percentages to points.  I’ll keep a running tally of your points on a spreadsheet. If at any time during the semester you’d like to know how many points you’ve earned so far and what your current letter grade is, please email me and I will give you an up-to-the-minute snapshot of where you stand.
To determine your final grade, I will take the total number of points you earn for the semester and divide that number by the total points possible for this course (i.e. 430 pts.). This will yield a percentage, which I will then convert to a letter grade using the above scale. 
Example:  Say you earn a total of 404.8 pts. for the semester; 404.8/460 pts. = .88 or 88% of the possible total.  Using the above scale, 88% of the total possible points is a B+. However, I will issue you a final course grade of “B” since YSU doesn’t permit a grade of “B+.”

Standards for written work

Grading on the midterm and final is as objective as possible and is based on the following criteria:
ENGL 3710 is an English class. Of course, spelling, punctuation, and “grammar” count! The following standards apply to all written work:
A—an “excellent” paper, indicating superior effort, understanding, and achievement
  • fulfills major and minor purposes of the assignment
  • articulates a clear thesis or critical stance
  • explores thoroughly the subject it raises and articulates unique insights and/or makes original connections among texts and their respective contexts
  • demonstrates an appropriate pattern of organization
  • quotes primary and secondary sources accurately and appropriately
  • features flawless in-text citations and a flawless bibliography
  • makes use of transitions and other reader-friendly “signposts”
  • provokes thoughtful reflection, and is interesting to read
  • uses language masterfully, always observing the conventions of Standard American English regarding syntax, tense and number markers, subject-verb agreement, spelling, and punctuation; has fewer than three typos/misspellings.
B—a “good” paper, indicating above-average effort, understanding, and achievement
  • fulfills major purposes of the assignment
  • attempts to articulate a thesis or critical position
  • explores adequately the subject it articulates
  • demonstrates an appropriate pattern of organization
  • quotes primary and secondary sources accurately
  • features a nearly flawless bibliography
  • holds the reader’s interest
  • uses language well, usually observing the conventions of Standard American English regarding syntax, tense and number markers, subject-verb agreement, spelling, and punctuation; has fewer than five typos or glitches in wording or editing.
C—a “satisfactory” paper, indicating average effort, understanding, and achievement
  • attempts to fulfill major purposes of the assignment
  • tries to articulate a thesis or critical position
  • demonstrates an acceptable pattern of organization
  • covers the key issues relevant to the topic it articulates, but may not develop all of them thoroughly
  • observes—usually—the conventions of Standard American English regarding syntax, tense and number markers, subject-verb agreement, spelling, and punctuation; may, however, feature errors in organization, editing, or citation format
D—an “unsatisfactory” paper, indicating below-average effort, understanding, and achievement
  • misunderstands or ignores at least one important dimension of the assignment
  • has no discernable thesis or critical position
  • seems to have only a vague familiarity with the assigned readings and course content
  • makes few or no references to primary and secondary sources
  • is poorly organized and inadequately developed
  • neglects to include a properly formatted bibliography
  • fails—frequently—to observe the conventions of Standard American English regarding syntax, tense and number markers, subject-verb agreement, spelling, and punctuation; features numerous errors in organization, editing, or citation format
F—an “unacceptable” paper, indicating inferior effort, understanding, and achievement
  • ignores completely the purposes of the assignment
  • has no discernable thesis
  • shows little or no familiarity with the assigned readings and course content
  • makes no references to primary and secondary sources
  • neglects to include a properly formatted bibliography
  • demonstrates significant ignorance of—or inability to observe—the conventions of Standard American English regarding syntax, tense and number markers, subject-verb agreement, spelling, and punctuation; features egregious errors in organization, editing, or citation format 

Important policies

Plagiarism. YSU defines plagiarism in the Student Code and in the Undergraduate Bulletin as a serious breach of academic honesty subject to a range of penalties, including expulsion from the university. While definitions vary, the essence of the offense is intentionally passing off the work of others as your own work. While some have found it tempting to download papers from the web or to “recycle” the work of their friends, the consequences will be devastating when you are caught. Trust me: I’ve read well over 10,000 student papers in my 25 year career. I WILL know if you’ve attempted to cheat me.
The minimum penalty for plagiarism in this class is automatic failure of the course and having a disciplinary action report placed in your student file. Plagiarism is a fundamental breach of the trust upon which the teacher-student relationship is based. This trust is sacred to me and I will not forgive you if you betray it. Besides, plagiarism robs you of the learning experience you are paying good money to acquire.  Just don’t do it.
Incompletes. In unusual circumstances, a student in good standing (a grade of “C” or better) may be unable to complete course requirements by the end of the semester.  An Incomplete (I) for this course is possible if all of the following conditions are met:
1) you request the incomplete in writing;
2) you were earning a passing grade at the time you were unable to attend;
3) the circumstances necessitating the request are beyond your control; and
4) I agree that an Incomplete is the appropriate course of action. 
YSU’s incomplete policy states that if no formal grade change occurs by September 1, 2013 an “I” automatically reverts to an “F.”  In other words, you have until the end of the summer to complete all outstanding work.
See Course Calendar for a week-by-week view of the readings and assignments