Office: South College 455
Office Hours: By appointment.
545-6598 | sharris at english.umass.edu
Description: This course introduces you to the magnificent epic poem Beowulf in its original language. Written between c. 750 and c.1000 AD, Beowulf is the chief poetic achievement of Anglo-Saxon England. It is a poem of stunning artistry, complex structure, and profound wisdom. Beowulf inspired J. R. R. Tolkien and Seamus Heaney as it continues to inspire today. We will read the poem extremely closely—one poem carefully instead of twenty poems quickly. As we do, we will put it into its historical and literary contexts, imagining Anglo-Saxon readers as well as modern ones. We will discuss Norse myths, Irish myths, charms, omens, and portents. And there be dragons. Recommended for students who have completed ENGL 313, Old English. If you have not taken Old English, you can read the poem in translation. Get in touch with your inner Viking! English majors only. Course prerequisite: English 200 with a grade of "C" or better and 201, 202 or 221 with a qualifying grade of a C or better.
Objectives: this course promises 1) a general background knowledge of the ancient Anglo-Saxon world; 2) introduction to a method of reading texts extremely closely, called the philological method; and 3) an intensely detailed knowledge of the greatest literary monument of Great Britain.
We meet TTh 10:00am - 11:15 am, South College E480 (campus map).
NB. Enter South College through the eastern wall's north door. Continue straight through both doors into a stairwell. Go up the stairs to the 4th floor. Turn right, and take the first left after the bathrooms.
Please read this trigger warning about the course.
Books will be ordered
to Amherst Books, 8 Main St., in Amherst.
For those without Old English, here are some free resources you
will absolutely need.
Three books all Beowulf scholars need are now free on Google
Books. On the left side of this page, under "Links," see Klaeber,
Structure & Objectives:
The course is both
a language course and a course in literary culture. Many of
the students will already
have learned Old English, so if you have not taken English 313, then
you absolutely should take advantage of the on-line grammars to catch
I will be making available a number of resources to help you read Old
English effectively. Please check the resources section of this
One half of each class
will be dedicated to the language of the poem. This means lexicon,
syntax, and semantics. It also means memorizing paradigms. If
you don't like foreign or ancient languages, then this course
is not for you. The second half of each class will be dedicated
You are also expected
to complete your readings and translations prior to each class--the
readings average 50 pages per week. The translations should
take about 4 to 6 hours per week. Here
is Beowulf in pdf. You can print out each passage, write on the page, and keep notes there, too. Those without Old English
can limit themselves to as much per class as they can manage--but
you must be up to speed within 8 weeks.
This course is designed to help you succeed. But it's your choice. You have to work. If you do the assignments well, take advantage of the resources, and work on the class at home, then you can do well. But if you do everything last-minute, work only during class time, and rarely read the assignments, then you likely will fail.
Attendance is required. My complete attendance
policy is here. Although written for another course, it applies equally to this one.
Late Assignments are not accepted. Make provisions beforehand and speak with me if you anticipate obstacles to punctuality. I will accept officially excused absences.
Electronic devices are unwelcome, but may be used for reference. Please don't browse the internet, use Facebook etc., play games, or email during class.
Conferences. I encourage you to meet with me at least once during the semester,
if only to verify that the grades that you have correspond to the
ones in my gradebook.
Office Hours. I am usually to be found in my office
T-W-Th. (Please let me know beforehand if you want to meet—I may be busy when you pop by, or teaching, or at a meeting.) Otherwise, please make an appointment to meet with me at a time convenient to you and I will certainly try to oblige.
There are two papers,
1500 wds. (25% each), and eight response sheets (5% each).
Here is Paper 1 (due 8 March) and Paper 2 (due 8 May). Here is a response sheet. Participation counts for 5%, attendance for 5%.
Grading Scale: A (92–100); A- (90, 91); B+ (87–89); B (82–86); B- (80, 81); C+ (77–79); C (72–76); C- (70, 71); D+ (67–69); D (62–66); D- (60, 61); F (0–59).
- YOUR PAPER
MUST BE HANDED IN AT THE BEGINNING OF CLASS ON THE DATE DUE. LATE
PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED.
- No electronic
- ALL MISSED ASSIGNMENTS
GET AN "F." If you foresee being absent, please let me know well
beforehand. University policies will be enforced.
- PLAGIARISM GETS
AN "F." This may be for the paper or for the course, at my discretion.
Please check your student handbook and university guidelines for
more on plagiarism. See below, note 4.
- ALL PAPERS MUST
BE TYPED OR WORD-PROCESSED. Not doing so reduces your grade by one
letter-value (e.g., "C" down to "D").
NOTE 1: Please make and keep a copy
of all your assignments. In
case any difficulties arise with respect to misplaced assignments
or with respect to discrepancies between your records and
my own, I will accept the evidence of your computer system's
dating function. For your own peace of mind, I suggest that
you lock any document on the day it is due. That will prevent
your system from associating your document with a later date.
NOTE 2: The schedule of this course is subject to change. It is not to be
construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue
of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes
will be announced beforehand. This syllabus and the accompanying
schedule constitute a binding contract between a student and
professor. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set
herein and as of this moment, then you are free to drop this
class within the time allotted by the administration.
NOTE 3: All material pertaining to this course is copyrighted
material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright.
No recording devices.
NOTE 4: Since the integrity of the academic enterprise of any institution of higher education requires honesty in scholarship and research, academic honesty is required of all students at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Academic dishonesty is prohibited in all programs of the University. Academic dishonesty includes but is not limited to: cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, and facilitating dishonesty. Appropriate sanctions may be imposed on any student who has committed an act of academic dishonesty. Instructors should take reasonable steps to address academic misconduct. Any person who has reason to believe that a student has committed academic dishonesty should bring such information to the attention of the appropriate course instructor as soon as possible. Instances of academic dishonesty not related to a specific course should be brought to the attention of the appropriate department Head or Chair. The procedures outlined below are intended to provide an efficient and orderly process by which action may be taken if it appears that academic dishonesty has occurred and by which students may appeal such actions.
Since students are expected to be familiar with this policy and the commonly accepted standards of academic integrity, ignorance of such standards is not normally sufficient evidence of lack of intent.
For more information about what constitutes academic dishonesty, please see the Dean of Students’ website at: http://umass.edu/dean_students/codeofconduct/acadhonesty/
NOTE 5: Disability Statement. [Text from CTFD] The University of Massachusetts Amherst is committed to making reasonable, effective and appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of students with disabilities and help create a barrier-free campus. If you are in need of accommodation for a documented disability, register with Disability Services to have an accommodation letter sent to your faculty. It is your responsibility to initiate these services and to communicate with faculty ahead of time to manage accommodations in a timely manner. For more information, consult the Disability Services website at http://www.umass.edu/disability/.