221 F12 Syllabus

Dr. Suanna H. Davis

Major British Writers I Syllabus

A survey of the literature of Great Britain from Anglo-Saxon times to the nineteenth century (1800).

Office: Chambers 119C (basement, open the glass doors and go down the stairs)

Office Etiquette: There is a waiting room area. If I have another student in the office, poke your head in to let me know you are there and then have a seat.

Available to Meet with Students: W 8-10:50, 2-5

T/Th 8-9:15

Other hours may be arranged by request.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of English 111 and 112.

Text: Beowulf, graphic novel

Course Description and Goals:

Major British Writers I is a three-hour, lower-division, reading-intensive course which focuses British literature from Middle Ages through the 17th century and is designed to give you a broad overview of the literature, history, and social and cultural values of early British literature.  It is also designed to offer you the opportunity to engage in in-depth literary study and analysis.

The central purpose of Major British Writers I is to help you to explore and evaluate American culture and history through examination of some of the important early English texts.  By sampling the artifacts of cultures that are simultaneously alien and familiar, you will gain a new perspective on the values, practices, and of your own culture.  Additionally, we hope that by surveying some of the theological and philosophical responses that are demonstrated in these works, you’ll further hone and deepen your own faith—that your dialogue with the writers and thinkers who produced these texts will offer your rewarding insights for use in your own theological journeys.

Major British Writers I is designed to prepare you with a thoughtful, sensitive, and rich –socio-cultural context. By asking you to engage with the works and ideas presented in class, with your fellow classmates, and with your own theoretical and theological stances, it intends to offer you the critical skills necessary for lives of service as well as leadership.  It is designed to be an important step in your mature entry into the world of ideas.

The Course Seeks:

  • To familiarize you with some of the texts, authors, and history of English literature so that you can recognize and classify these according to their appropriate areas and periods and according to their reflection of some of the social, cultural, philosophical, and aesthetic developments of those periods;
  • To further your understanding and appreciation of how literature works and to continue to acquaint you with the tools and strategies necessary for textual communication and literary exploration so that you can apply your knowledge in various situations;
  • To expose you to some of the religious, philosophical, political and social movements which shaped English, and by association, American, history and to offer you their perspective as you continue to synthesize and shape your own world view;
  • To encourage you to examine your own culture and history and to deepen your understanding of yourself and your world through an exploration of the foundational texts of English literature;
  • To foster an appreciation of literature and the kind of creative, logical, and critical thinking that will be necessary in your academic and professional life.


  1. To read, discuss, and write about early English-language literature as a means of introduction to the legacy of works, both prose and poetry.
  2. To write about the literature, in essays, essay exams, and literary analysis and thus enhance the students’ repertoire of writing skills.
  3. To sharpen students’ writing, thinking, listening, note-taking, and research skills.
  4. To continue improving students’ skills through tutoring in the Writing Center.
  5. To enhance student vocabularies. The use of a dictionary may be necessary.
  6. To work with technology in the study of early British literature, taking advantage of multiple mediums of presentation.
  7. To incorporate the conceptual elements of design, symphony, narrative, play, and meaning into the study of early British literature. (See A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink for references.)

Learning Outcomes:

  • Trace, interpret, and evaluate the cultural and literary development of English literature, both in form and content, from the Old English or Anglo-Saxon period through the  Neo-Classical period.
  • Interpret and evaluate a literary work through understanding of the theme, situation, tone, structure, and style.
  • Recognize and be able to enumerate the aesthetic, moral, and intellectual values of literature.
  • Recognize some of the major themes of literature and identify works in which these are present.
  • Understand the distinguishing characteristics of various genres such as epic poems, sonnets, plays, odes, elegies, novels, and allegories and be able to give examples of these.
  • Write logical, well-organized, well-supported critical responses to a literary work.
  • Appropriately document material used as the result of research.

General Information:

This is a three-hour course. The Department of Education defines this as a class which meets for three hours a week with homework of six to nine hours a week.

1) Even though it is an introductory course, this class is READING INTENSIVE. It is a survey course. We will be reading a lot. And we will be reading passages, books, poems, and stories from across multiple centuries. Some of these will be more enjoyable to you than others. Some will be more difficult. That is to be expected. Because it is an introductory course we will be moving on to something else quickly, so don’t be discouraged. You may have read some of these works before. Enjoy the review.

2) We will begin most of the readings in class. This will give you the opportunity to observe the teacher modeling how a successful literary reader reads. It will also give you the opportunity to ask questions when something is confusing, instead of having to continue in confusion and hope you figure the problem out eventually. In addition, it will give the teacher the opportunity to comment on and expand your understanding of the reading during the process of reading.

3) Most of the homework will involve writing. This will give you the opportunity to take what we read and talked about in class and make it your knowledge by putting it into your own words. It will also help you to think about the works in a structured way outside of class.

4) Literature was primarily written by and for the Catholic Church through much of the Middle Ages, so many of the readings will deal with Christian themes. We will read and discuss texts as literature, not as articles of faith. Part of the ability to understand the readings will rest on knowledge of the world view held by the society that produced them, which will be discussed in class. No prior knowledge of Judeo-Christian tradition is required. If you find a reference confusing, read the introductions and handouts. If you are still confused, please bring it up. Others may be just as confused, but less willing to admit it.

5) We are covering almost a thousand years this semester. A time machine would make this easier, but since I don’t have one, we will be “flying” through the decades. Coming to class on time and coming prepared will make a big difference in what you are able to get out of the class. This will be VERY intense, with lots of reading. This is my favorite literature class to teach and I hope that my enjoyment of it will make the class more enjoyable for you as well.

6) We will be reading great literature. We will read all of BeowulfSir Gawain and the Green Knight, and many other works. We will read early plays. In addition we will read excerpts of other works. We will read poems. Obviously this will not make you fluent in the literature of the English language before 1800, but it will mean that you will be educated about it and able to speak from your own experience about many of the major works and figures.


In chapter two of Christian Vandendorpe’s From Papyrus to Hypertext titled: In the beginning was the ear, Vandendorpe says it took millenia “for literature to free itself from primary orality, albeit not completely”. In the beginning all reading was done out loud, and it was not until the 12th century that books were created for silent reading. Orthographic signs and the separation between words had appeared around the 7th century, but did not become common until the 9th century amongst the learned communities of monks. Walter J Ong, in his classic study of writing and orality, Orality and Literacy defines as the “technologizing of the word” the process of developing a new relationship between language and thought.

from Guardian UK

Scholarly Standards:

This course expects college-level scholarship.

The college writing standard ought to be well known and specifically employs The Little, Brown Handbook, for correct English expository style.  The English department further authorizes students to use the MLA parenthetical citation method for scholarly form.  Any work that falls beneath the college, departmental, and course standards is unacceptable.

Zeros on two larger assignments (5% or more) will result in a failure of the course.

Academic Integrity:

The university expects academic integrity.

Violations of academic integrity and other forms of cheating, as defined in ACU’s Academic Integrity Policy, involve the intention to deceive or mislead or misrepresent, and therefore are a form of lying and represent actions contrary to the behavioral norms that flow from the nature of God.

Scholastic dishonesty includes any act that violates the rights of another student in academic work or that involves misrepresentation of work.  Scholastic dishonesty includes, but is not necessarily limited to:

  • use of information from notes, textbooks, or fellow students during exams without express permission from instructor;
  • plagiarizing (willfully or accidentally misrepresentating as your own work any part of work done by another);
  • submission of the same paper or substantially similar papers, to meet the requirements of more than one course without the approval and consent of all instructors concerned;
  • depriving another student of necessary course materials;
  • interfering with another student’s work;
  • unauthorized collaboration with another student on written work.

In cases of dishonesty, you will receive a zero for the assignment. The information on the dishonesty will be given to the dean for insertion in your permanent academic record.

If a second assignment, large or small, is found to be plagiarized, you will fail the course.

While the university enforces the Policy, the most powerful motive for integrity and truthfulness comes from one’s desire to imitate God’s nature in our lives.  Every member of the faculty, staff, and student body is responsible for protecting the integrity of learning, scholarship, and research.

The full Policy is available for review at the Provost’s office web site.

The ACU Writing Center welcomes all ACU students who would like assistance with their writing.  Trained and experienced tutors will read and provide feedback for any writing assignment from any class at any stage of the writing process.  Located in the Learning Commons in Brown Library, these services are free.


Special Needs Policy:

Abilene Christian University is dedicated to removing barriers and opening access for students with disabilities in compliance with ADA and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The Alpha Scholars Program facilitates disability accommodations in cooperation with instructors. In order to receive accommodations, you must be registered with Alpha Scholars Program, and you must complete a specific request for each class in which you need accommodations. If you have a documented disability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please call our office directly at (325) 674-2667.

ACU is on record as being committed to both the spirit and letter of federal equal opportunity legislation; reference Public Law 93112 — The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 as amended. With the passage of new federal legislation entitled Americans with Disabilities Act – (ADA), pursuant to section 504 of The Rehabilitation Act, there is renewed focus on providing this population with the same opportunities enjoyed by all citizens.  As a faculty member, I am required by law to provide “reasonable accommodation” to students with disabilities, so as not to discriminate on the basis of that disability.

Student responsibility primarily rests with informing faculty at the beginning of the semester and in providing authorized documentation through designated administrative channels.


The university requires student attendance in classes. If a student misses six classes (can be combined absences or tardies.), the university requires that the student be dropped from the class.

There is no difference between excused and unexcused absences. However, if you know you will be absent, you should make up the work ahead of time.

Classroom Behavior Expectations:

Students are full partners in fostering a classroom environment which is conducive to learning. In order to assure that all students have the opportunity to gain from the time spent in class, students are expected to demonstrate civil behavior in the classroom. Unless otherwise approved by the instructor, students are prohibited from engaging in any form of behavior that detracts from the learning experience of fellow students. Inappropriate behavior in the classroom may result in a request for the offending student to leave the classroom and/or an absence recorded for the period.

Classroom behaviors that disturb the teaching-learning experiences include the following behaviors: demands for special treatment, frequent episodes of leaving and then returning to the class, excessive tardiness, leaving class early, making offensive remarks or disrespectful comments or gestures to the teacher or other students, missing deadlines, prolonged chattering, reading non-class related material or surfing the net during class, sleeping, arriving late to class, dominating discussions, shuffling backpacks or notebooks, disruption of group work, and overt inattentiveness.

Late Work:

Successful students turn their work in on time.

In-class work will not be accepted late. If you are going to be absent, in-class work may be turned in early.

One major paper will be accepted one day late in the course. It will be marked down for being late. A late paper will be marked down based on the percentage of the course grade it represents. If the paper is worth 5%, it will be marked down 5% for that day. If it is worth 10%, it will be marked off 10% for that day (and so on).

Penalties assessed for late papers are not about punitive issues, but about equity.

If a student turns in all work and it is all on time, two points will be added to the final average. These points are not applied until finals are finished.

Extra Credit:

Throughout the class, I have included work which I think would be beneficial but which is not required due to time constraints. If you wish to do these projects, extra credit will be given based on how well they are completed. Extra credit is not guaranteed.

Course Withdrawal:

If you wish to drop a course, you must do so by the withdrawal date.

Students contemplating dropping the course are encouraged to talk with the instructor first.



Grading Percentages:

A  90-100% (Excellent) This is not a common grade and means you have excelled.

B  80-89% (Above Average) This means you have done well, better than average.

C  70-79% (Average) This means you are doing acceptable college level work.

D 60-69% (Below Average) This means you are not working at the college level on the assignment. It does not mean that you cannot do the work, only that you have not done the work. A single paper with this grade does not indicate anything about your ability or even your final grade in the class. It is, however, indicative that you may need to start work on the next paper earlier, go to the Writing Center for assistance, see the professor for clarification on the assignment, or finish the work early enough to allow the professor to look at it and make suggestions for improvement.

F 0-59% (Failing) This means you are not working anywhere near the college level. This does not indicate anything about your ability. A single paper with this grade does not indicate anything about your ability and is not necessarily indicative of your final grade in the class.  It is, however, indicative that you may need to start work on the next paper earlier, go to the Writing Center for assistance, see the professor for clarification on the assignment, or finish the work early enough to allow the professor to look at it and make suggestions for improvement. It may mean that you need to examine your priorities and determine whether or not this class is important enough to you right now for you to do well in.


Out-of-class essays are due at the start of class. The correct heading for each paper, including reading responses, must be as follows, in upper left corner:

Student’s first and last name (or appropriate formal name usage)

Dr. Suanna H. Davis

ENGL 221

Month day, year

Papers must be stapled or paper-clipped in upper left corner above heading.

If the essays are being turned in electronically, they must be in before class begins as well.

Percentages on Assignments:

65% Larger assignments:

  • Beowulf exam (short answer) 10%
  • Judith essay 10%
  • Hrothgar’s playlist, homework assignment 5%
  • Hrothgar’s playlist, digital presentation 15%
  • Summit conceptual elements paper 5%
  • research paper (16 pages, 10 academic sources) OR short papers (including conceptual elements, c/c of The Wanderer and The Seafarer, pilgrimage paper, c/c love poetry) 20%

25% Attendance, quizzes, in-class participation, reading responses, and homework:

  • Homework is required regularly. It may be used on the final exam.
  • Writing prompts will be given in class for required posting to the discussion board for reading responses.
  • Announced and pop quizzes will be given.
  • Oral participation is required in class. Some will be reading or answering questions. Some will be group work.
  • Successful students attend class.
  • Successful students will be on time.

10% Final exam (will be comprehensive- may use your notes):

Students with a 95 average will be excused from the final.

This syllabus may be revised as the term progresses.

Pictures are from the public domain or purchased, through Classroom Clipart or istockphoto.com.

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