HUM-H390 — Saints, Sinners and Swords: Medieval European Literature — winter 2017–2018

Professor John Gardner

A204 Moench Hall
+1 812 877 8524


The class examines both major and minor works of medieval European literature, studying their development, context, and influence. It is not intended as a comprehensive or balanced survey of the topic, nor will we be reading exclusively well-known masterworks. Our goals are to improve critical reading skills (which have application far beyond the reading of literature), to gain a greater understanding of the medieval world and its continuing influence, and especially to read, enjoy, appreciate, and learn from the literature of the middle ages.


Many of our texts are translations, and since there is often significant difference from one translation to another, it is important to use the edition listed below unless otherwise stated in class.

Beowulf. Tr. Seamus Heaney. New York: Norton, 2000.

ISBN 0-393-32097-9

Don't be alarmed at the original Old English / Anglo-Saxon text on the left-hand pages; we will be reading the modern English translation on right.

The Poem of the Cid. Tr. Lesley Bird Simpson. Berkley: University of California Press, 1957.

ISBN 9780520250109

The Inferno. Alighiere, Dante. Tr. John Ciardi. London: Penguin, 1954.

ISBN 978-0-451-53139-1

The Canterbury Tales. Chaucer, Jeffrey. Ed. David Wright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011.

ISBN 978-0199599028

This text is also available for use on-line from campus via this link, although you may find it easier to use the printed book, which is not expensive.

Miracles of Our Lady. Berceo, Gonzalo de. Tr. Richard Terry Mount and Annette Grant Cash. Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1997.

ISBN 0813120195

This book is not in the bookstore and you do not need to purchase it; it is available for use on-line from campus via this link.

From off-campus, go to, login, and then search for the text.

In addition to these texts, there will be numerous handouts distributed in class.

Class activities


An important part of this course will be discussion of the readings. I want you all to express your opinions during our discussions. If you participate frequently with insightful, useful comments, you will get a high participation grade. If you contribute occasionally, with comments that usually show some insight or independent thought, you will get an acceptable participation grade. If you rarely or never contribute to our discussion, or only make comments that are unhelpful to our discussion, you will get a low participation grade. I realize that in a class of this size it can be difficult for everyone to have a chance to say something every day. Strive to participate daily, but make sure you participate weekly. To the degree possible I will assist you by calling on students who have not participated recently with some of the questions that are listed in the daily homework, but ultimately participation is your responsibility.

You are required to attend all classes, and attendance is part of your participation grade. You are allowed four absences per term, including absences for illness, religious obligation, job interviews, etc. For each additional absence the participation portion of your grade will be lowered by 10% from what it would have been. Attendance will be taken either by me reading the class roster, by passing a roster on which you should sign your name, or in some other fashion. If you are present in class it is your responsibility to make sure you are counted as present. If unusual circumstances will cause you to miss more than 4 classes during the term please speak with me; you will need to be able to document the absences. Because participation is important, and since listening to and learning from the contributions of your fellow students is an important part of that participation, if you miss more than ten class meetings (that is to say, twenty-five percent of the term) you will fail the course unless it is due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the your control.

Participation is worth 10% of your final grade.


Relatively short written assignments. Unless otherwise stated, assignments must be your own work and should be done individually, not as group work in collaboration with others. Your work should by typed or neatly handwritten on a full-sized sheet of paper. Please double space all written work to allow room for me to write comments. If you are absent from class on the day an assignment is due, it will be accepted upon your return without penalty. Otherwise, late assignments will be assessed a ten percent late fee for each day late. The reason for this late fee is to discourage you from simply waiting until the assignment has been turned in by others, discussed in class, and / or returned to other students, and then using that information to complete the assignment without really fulfilling the assignment's objectives.

Assignments are worth 10% of your final grade.


You get to plan and do two different projects related to work(s) read in and/or out of class. At least one of your projects will be a traditional academic paper, about a work read in class, which you will submit to the RosE Portfolio to help RHIT maintain its academic accreditation, as well as submitting it in printed form on or before the due date. (Directions about how to submit it to the portfolio will be given later; it need not be submitted to the RosE Portfolio by the class due date.) Your other project can be anything of your choosing that relates to the medieval world in some fashion. Before doing each project you will submit a project description or proposal, about one paragraph long, by the deadline listed with the daily homework. If you need additional time to complete either project, ask for an extension at least a day in advance; do not ask the day it is due.

Here are some guidelines for the project that is an academic paper: Your paper should be between 750 and 1250 words long, typed and double-spaced (that’s about 3 – 5 pages.) Your paper should have a clear structure to it. There are many good ways to do this. Perhaps the most traditional is to begin with an introductory paragraph that states your thesis, that is to say, what the central idea of your paper is. The following paragraphs should offer your ideas, supported by textual evidence from the text(s) or other sources, that support your thesis. The paper should end with a conclusion that, if possible, points to the relationship between your topic and the text(s) as a whole or other related issues.

Your paper must be your own work, that is to say, you must be the author of your paper… to copy it in whole or in part from other sources or other authors without attribution is considered cheating. Although it is not strictly required, you will probably want or need to reference or make use of the ideas of others in your paper. I do not require that this be done in any particular format, but in doing so you should make sure that it is clear what ideas are yours and what ideas are from another source, and what that source is. You should do so in such a way that I could find the source and the relevant passage without difficulty. One good way to so this is to put quotation marks around anything you quote directly, and at the conclusion of the quote put the last name of the source's author and the page number(s) where the quotation is found. At the end of the paper, include a bibliography of sources cited where you give complete information about the source and how to find it. If you summarize a source rather than quoting it directly, introduce or conclude your summary with a phrase such as “Smith, in her book, Too Bad Beowulf Missed the Olympics, notes that…” and then give your summary. At the conclusion of the summary cite in parenthesis the page numbers of your source. Be sure to include the complete reference in your list of works cited at the conclusion of the paper. Note that you may elect to follow the norms of any style guide, such as the MLA or the Chicago Manual of Style, or you may simply format your sources as you wish, provided they are clear.

This project is worth 20% of your final grade.

For your other project you may chose from a wide variety of topics:

• You may write a traditional literary analysis paper

• You may analyze any aspect of a work of music, art, dance, theater or film related to the medieval world.

• You may write about some aspect of the the medieval world as related to popular culture.

• You may do any sort of creative project related to the the medieval world and / or the works we read in class.

• You can write a book review of a work of literature, history or literary criticism related to the medieval world. This is a great project, but if you chose to do this bear in mind that a book review is not a book summary.

• If you think of an appropriate topic that is not described above, I am open to good suggestions, but you must have your topic approved in advance.

This project is also worth 20% of your final grade.


There will be two tests; each will be worth 20% of your final grade. If you are allowed extra time or other accommodations on tests, please be sure to let me know well in advance of the test dates.

Academic dishonesty

Do not cheat. Cheating can consist of copying from another student during a quiz or test, turning in someone else’s work as your own, changing answers after a quiz, test or other work has been returned and then claiming they were incorrectly marked as wrong, using a book, cheatsheet or internet device during a test where such aids are prohibited, and many other things. I prefer to make cheating hard in order to deter cheaters, but some people find a way to cheat anyway. If I catch you cheating your penalty will depend on the circumstances, but it will be much more than simply an F on the assignment you cheated on; the amount your grade is lowered will probably make you want to drop the course. Some of the things I do to deter cheating (like seating students a comfortable distance apart during tests) may be obvious; others may not be apparent to you. I don't discuss all the measures I take to make cheating hard, because if I did it would make no difference to the honest students, and would only help the cheaters find a better way to cheat. So, to put it simply: don’t cheat.


Use the menu icon at the upper left-hand side of this page to access the homework assignments, group by week.