Required Graded Work

Class Participation (incl. the in-class performance, "Getting to Know Some Old Things Very Well" project, and GoucherLearn forum posts)--20%

Weekly Quizzes--20%

N.B.: I drop the lowest two (out of an anticipated 12) and I curve the class norm so that it corresponds to Goucher's numerical definitions of the number ranges [0-59 F; 60-62 D-; 63-66 D; 67-69 D+; 70-72 C-; 73-76 C; 77-79 C+; 80-82 B-; 83-86 B; 87-89 B+; 90-92 A-; and 93-100 A].  I also follow these definition of "C" as "Fair" rather than "Average" performance, so the class arithmetical average may well be above a C, indicating that you all are performing at better than a "Fair" level.

Midterm Exam--10%

First Paper--10%

Second Paper--20%

Final Exam--20%

In-Class Performances and Analyses (one per student-sign up by Friday of Week 2!)

Modern literary analysis generally agrees that every time a  reader reads a text, the reader "performs" the text, much like a musician performs the notes on a piece paper to make the music come alive.  Because almost all the literature of this era was meant to be performed aloud, each day's class will begin with one member of the class reading a passage or short complete work which s/he thinks is important, excellent, puzzling, or otherwise a useful way to begin discussion. The reading will be followed by a brief explanation of why it was chosen, and the whole will be evaluated for appropriateness to the study of the work in question, original insight, and helpful connections made to other works/authors we already have read. This will form part of the "Class Participation" portion of the course grade. See me if you want advice about picking, performing, or explaining a passage or work. Passages can be claimed in advance during the first week of classes, and readers may trade dates/passages among themselves as long as the day's readings always are covered.  Click here for the criteria I will use for evaluation of performances and interpretations, and some important advice about how to prepare your passage and your analysis..

GoucherLearn Posts

Some students find it difficult to participate in class discussion, and in a large class countless good ideas and questions must be left by the wayside during ordinary classroom discussion. The discussion board on GoucherLearn for this section of English 211 offers each of you an opportunity to ask questions and to make comments you did have time for or didn't think of in class. I will read and respond to these postings, and I occasionally will post helpful information before or after class (including, occasionally, quiz questions!).  Think of this as your space to consider class discussion after class, a chance to raise the issues which concern you most, or to get clarification of concepts or technical jargon which you didn't understand in class. I will base up to 1/2 the class participation grade on the quantity and quality of your posts. I am especially interested in students who respond helpfully to other students' posts.   For examples of previous student-generated conversations which have produced extra credit (as well as several insights which resulted in good to excellent papers), see the "Controversies" list on the home page bottom menu.


Quizzes will be unannounced, at least once each week, and no make-ups will be allowed. Their sheer number will make it likely that everyone will miss at least one, and designing makeup quizzes for such a large class would be impossible. If you miss class for an authorized absence (see Student Handbook), I will not count that quiz in your final average. Also, your lowest two quiz grades will be dropped and quizzes will be graded on a curve so your average will be scored relative to the class's average.  You can see sample quizzes linked to answers and rationales for why the questions and answers matter.  For any quiz, remember that I am trying to learn what you know about the reading.  If you cannot answer my questions but do know something about the work, tell me what you know.  That will get you extra credit.  If you tell me why what you know is important, perhaps linking it to the work's larger significance, to other works, and other larger issues we should care about, you will get more extra credit.  It is entirely possible to get a zero on the questions I ask but to get 100 points or more for the questions you ask yourself and answer with insight and good sense.  I strongly recommend the note-card system as a way to prepare for the quizzes each day, and cumulatively to prepare you for the midterm and final exam.  When the course is over, the cards will remain to help you preserve your memory for what you cared about in the readings and to enable you to apply it in other classes.  Take charge of your learning and decide what you think is important.  Decide to remember authors and works who mean something important to you, and figure out relationships among them.  That will determine what you remember, and that will become the real "canon" of English literature for the 21st century as you carry it forward in your minds and lives.


The First Paper must be primarily concerned with a single text we've read before Sir Philip Sidney's Defense of Poesie, and its body (not including Works Cited) must be no longer than three pages.  You need use only the primary source (the work of literature) but you must cite it using MLA style. An experienced college-level student of English literature ordinarily would use secondary sources, but there is no requirement that you use them if you are unsure how to do so.  (For advice, see this web page.)  If you do use secondary sources, they must be scholarly (peer-reviewed) and they must be cited using MLA style.  I would prefer to give no extensions on the deadline in order to keep my obligations to students in my other classes, but I am willing to listen to reasonable arguments for short delays.  When you submit the paper by email as an attached file, it is your responsibility   to insure that the file arrives properly formatted to print using MS-Word.  You must send it with the email option checked that will notify you when I have opened the email. and you must include in the email the specific request that I reply with news about whether the file printed properly.  If you do not do those two things, you are entirely responsible if anything goes wrong.  The same is true if you ask a friend to deliver a paper copy to me. 

        Now that all that authoritarian stuff is out of the way, some advice--please take a while deciding on a topic.  Make a list of possible texts about which you have something important to say.  Think about focus, where you'll find the most important insight-density per word or per sentence.  Let that direct your attention at first.   Then narrow your focus within that text to the single most important, non-obvious observation you can report to help a reader better understand how the text works and/or what the author intended it to mean.  For clues to develop insights, research sources, and theoretical/critical method, click here.  Click here for the subjects of some midterm papers which previously were successful (i.e., got an "A" or an "A-" while meeting the 3-page rule).   For the evaluation criteria, click here.   If anything about these guides is unclear, please ask and give me a chance to teach you something important to the way English majors do business in writing.

The Second Paper must be concerned with at least two works of literature we will have read by the end of the course, and the primary focus may not be on a text read before the midterm exam.  You also can write on two parts of one major work from the second half of the course (e.g., Volpone, Paradise Lost, Oroonoko, The Way of the World).  There is no page length minimum, and no page length maximum.  As long as the papers sincerely engage at least two texts (or parts of a major text, see above), I will evaluate them on the quality of their argument, not on the quantity of their verbiage.  Because this paper serves as an instrument to measure Writing Proficiency in the Major for some English Majors, in addition to your primary sources, I require you to refer to at least some scholarly secondary sources. That means sources most come from scholarly journals (including peer-reviewed online journals) and books published by university presses, including essay collections. Wise students will use scholarship in the paper's introduction to establish the current issues relevant to their authors or primary texts, and to solve problems in demonstrating their theses. Sometimes they will develop the paper as a productive debate with a critic whose views they dispute, seek to extend, or hope to modify. They also will not use sources only for the sake of a requirement, and they will use sources that are recent, or at least still of lasting quality. They will not neglect article-length sources because articles are more likely to deal with issues of the same intellectual weight as a student's paper.   For more detailed assistance in using scholarly sources as scholars use them, see this page.  Writing Center tutors can help you learn to use the MLA Bibliography  and other Writing Proficiency in the Major resources, and you also talk to the reference desk librarians specially trained in bibliographic search strategies (x6365), if you need help finding, selecting, and evaluating leads.  The policy on emailed papers, as well as deadline extensions, is the same as it is for the midterm paper.   The second paper is due at 9 AM on the Monday of Exam Week.

        Please talk with me or send an email message describing your thesis before you start writing. I may be able to help you focus your thesis, and I also may be able to save you from errors which could damage the paper. Once you have your thesis, feel free to see me, call or email me for advice on developing it. Remember that many Writing Center tutors have taken this course and can help you.  Talk to your Writing Center tutor when you are first brainstorming your ideas, again after your first draft, and one more time while you are editing the paper for coherence and strengthening its logic.  If you have trouble proof-reading, that's a good reason to go a fourth time, but do not neglect the tutors while you are struggling to start and create the paper.

For a checklist to keep you from missing obvious things just before you turn in the paper, click here.