Early English Literature
Section 01 [H]
Dr. Michael Delahoyde
Avery Hall 355
Washington State University
Hours: MWF 10:00-11:00 and by appointment.
THE MAKING OF ENGLISH
Now that we all know that we’re an arbitrarily evolved and rather dorky species on one small poisoned planet out of nine, or eight (?), with a yellow sun in an obscure corner of a second-rate bass-ackwards galaxy in an expanding universe, what is to be salvaged from a time before psychotherapy, chemotherapy, restless leg syndrome, the meat industry, pharmaceutical cartels, a media “machine,” and hair-care “systems”? I hope it’s more than “quaintness.”
This course is designed to acquaint you well with the human and thoughtful side to life through literary texts of the medieval and early modern worlds. The course will offer, just as the period’s arts themselves were supposed to, the ideal union of, as Chaucer wrote, “sentence and solas” — instruction and entertainment — as we examine courtly, religious, and popular works that highlight the making of “English” through its interaction with other cultures and languages (including Anglo-Saxon and French). We will address the cultural implications of these materials — that is, their impact in the minds and lives of those who have been influenced by them, and that includes ourselves.
I am particularly interested in how the principles and issues raised in this body of literature survive and arise and recur in our own contemporary culture. I will encourage you to see and to make connections between ideas, attitudes, and cultures in classroom discussions, and to keep track of ideas and stupidities currently circulating that interest you.
To gain exposure to medieval and early modern literature and thought by poring over some of the major artistic works that have shaped our culture and the way we think, thereby mastering a crucial component in a well-rounded English education.
To increase intellectual maturation and clarification of our own values through examination of ideas and attitudes in literary/cultural contexts and especially through articulation of these in academic discourse.
To develop skills in critical thinking, verbal analysis, and detection of subtlety through reading, discussion, and writing about literature.
Chaucer. The Canterbury Tales. Penguin Classics, 2005.
[This is called an “original-spelling Middle English edition,” which is crucial for not modernizing the cleverness out of the original ambiguities and word-play.]
Scads of other materials will be available from the Modules section of our Canvas space.
A significant part of your life this semester has to become early English studies. Responsibly reading and studying these texts can be demanding, but at least we have the opportunity to be doing it together as a learning community. Because classroom interaction is essential for this to be a valuable experience, and because frequent homework writings or quizzes will be exchanged, more than a few absences will affect your grade regardless of reason. Here’s the math:
I will frequently ask for relatively minor homework assignments to be turned in (or submitted electronically on the Canvas system), designed primarily to stimulate subsequent discussion [although it will arise anyway because the readings are so provocative (i.e., cool)] and to practice conventions for writing about literature. At other times I will ask you to answer questions in writing in class, often ad lib responses to the reading before class discussion begins. Homework assignments and quizzes will receive numerical grades (points) and, although these writings cannot be made up (except for a couple optional, extra-credit writings that can take their place), the final semester totals will be curved if necessary. (30%)
You will submit two written projects of manageable length. Late papers will receive F grades; failure to turn anything in, even late, will result in an F for the course. (30%)
Your presence will be kindly requested at two miserable exams. (30%)
Class participation and other service to the learning community will be expected (occasional group work, for example). (10%)
Some introductory advice about succeeding with homework and exams can be found here.
Students with Disabilities:
I am committed to providing assistance to help you be successful in this course. Reasonable accommodations are available for students with a documented disability. If you have a disability and may need accommodations to participate in this class fully, please visit the Disability Resource Center (DRC) at the start of the semester to seek information or to qualify for accommodations. All accommodations must be approved through the DRC (Washington Building, Room 217). Call 509-335-3417 to make an appointment with a disability specialist: http://www.drc.wsu.edu.
As an institution of higher education, Washington State University is committed to principles of truth and academic honesty. All members of the University community share the responsibility for maintaining and supporting these principles. When a student enrolls in Washington State University, the student assumes an obligation to pursue academic endeavors in a manner consistent with the standards of academic integrity adopted by the University. The University does not tolerate acts of academic dishonesty including any forms of cheating, plagiarism, or fabrication. Any student plagiarizing on any assignment or cheating on any exam in this class will receive an F for the course and will be reported to the Office of Student Standards and Accountability, who remind us that Washington State University reserves the right and the power to discipline or to exclude students who engage in academic dishonesty. If you have any questions about what is allowed or not in this course, ask. It is strongly suggested that you read and understand these definitions and stop plagiarizing that essay on file in your sleazy frat.
Safety and Emergency Notification:
Classroom and campus safety are of paramount importance at Washington State University and are the shared responsibility of the entire campus population. WSU urges students to follow the “Alert, Assess, Act” protocol for all types of emergencies and the “Run, Hide, Fight” response for “an active shooter incident” (which, disturbingly, seems to be precisely the one emergency the university expects). Remain ALERT through direct observation or emergency notification, ASSESS your specific situation, and ACT in the most appropriate way to assure your own safety and the safety of others if you are able. Sign up for emergency alerts on your account at MyWSU. For more information on classroom safety and related topics, view the FBI’s “Run, Hide, Fight video” and visit the classroom safety page: https://provost.wsu.edu/classroom-safety.
These are most of the required syllabus inclusions, but the suffocating mountain of more of these statements perpetually added by administrators is making it impossible to create a syllabus that isn’t a booklet. (If all syllabi are supposed to include these, why aren’t they just sent to all students from the university itself instead of rendering the syllabi unreadable and moot? — because you wouldn’t read them?) Here’s more.
N.B.: Lust for engagement with the period, Gluttony for knowledge, Envy for motivating accomplishment, Greed for success, and Pride in your work are the only acceptable sins here. Sloth will be especially reprehensible and will be met with Ire.
Dr. Michael Delahoyde, Professor, Department of English
Washington State University