ENGL 310 A: The Bible As Literature

Meeting Time: 
TTh 11:30am - 1:20pm
SAV 264
LaPorte photo
Charles LaPorte

Syllabus Description:

The Bible as Literature

English 310A: Winter 2017

TTh 11:30-1:20,  SAV 264


Professor LaPorte

Office: Padelford A508

Office Hours M: 12:30-12:20

Email: laporte@uw.edu


Course Description: The Bible is among the world's most influential works and has contributed immeasurably to the literary traditions of the English language.  This course will consider the Bible as itself a work of literature, with certain recognizable tropes and genres.  No previous exposure to the Bible is needed; the only requirement is a willingness to engage with the Bible as a literary text.


The New Oxford Annotated Bible

Assorted handouts


Class Participation: This course will present an overview of the literary themes and forms of the Bible, with some attention to contemporaneous history and some attention to the Bible's modern usage in secular literature.  Lectures will include helpful indications of how to focus your reading, and how that reading might best inform your exam study and paper topics. 

            The success of our course will also, however, depend in part upon student participation. Students are expected to bring questions and/or constructive observations about the assigned text.  Your attendance here will have an effect your participation grade (see below) because you cannot actively participate without being present.  But participation is not restricted to physical presence; it includes engaged listening as well as speaking.  Please feel no need to give a reason for any given absence—I trust your judgment and do not wish to arbitrate between legitimate and illegitimate excuses.  Only keep in mind that we have only ten weeks of class, and that your participation points at the end of the term depend upon your contribution to the class.  If you will be absent on a day that you are to submit a version of a paper for peer critiques (see below), it is your responsibility to get that paper to your reviewer and to us in a prompt and congenial manner. 

Please appear at class on time and please silence your cell phone.


In-Class Quizzes: To encourage you to keep up with the reading, I will frequently begin class with very short in-class quizzes that will usually consist of a literary allusion to the day's Biblical reading.  These quizzes will be graded on a pass/fail (check/minus) basis; they will generally be quite easy for students who have done the reading.  Additionally, we will drop up to three failing quizzes from your grade (so there's no need to panic if you miss class or mess up on a couple of them).


In-Class Writings: We may also occasionally begin class with in-class writing exercises, which will be designed to test both reading comprehension and general interpretation. Unlike the quizzes, these will not be graded. 


Midterm and Final Exams:  The midterm and final exams will consist of factual questions, identification questions (of passages that we have discussed in class), and interpretative essay questions based upon literary representations of Biblical passages.  You will definitely be better prepared to take these exams if you keep up with the reading, and participate in class discussions.  The midterm and final exams are mandatory, and the times are already fixed.  (Arrange your Spring Break travel plans accordingly!)


Papers:  You will write one 5-page paper and one peer critique (see below).  Everything that you submit must be word-processed, double-spaced, and printed in "Times New Roman" 12-point font (or, in a pinch, "Times").  Late papers (both first and final submissions) are reduced 1/3 letter grade per weekday late.


Critiques:  The final part of your participation grade will consist in out-of-class critiques, which each of you will provide for one another's essay drafts.  Briefly, this is how it works: a week before the essay due date, bring to class two spare copies of your essay draft.  We will keep one and distribute one for peer review.  Each of you will return home with one peer essay, which you will critique in 1-2 typed pages.  (You will receive classroom instructions on how to do this.)  At the following class meeting, you will return to the author your peer review, and also turn in a copy to me.  We will review and appraise your peer critiques, in addition to your own essays. 


Grade Distribution:.

Midterm: 20%
Paper: 25%
Final: 30%
Section Participation, In-Class Quizzes & Writings, Peer Review: 25%

Email vs. Office Hours:

Professor LaPorte is happy to answer brief student questions over email.  For more involved questions, please come to office hours (see above).


Students with Disabilities:  Students with a documented disability should contact Professor LaPorte and the DSS office as soon as possible so that we can make appropriate accommodations.


Plagiarism: Plagiarism is the act of presenting another’s work as your own.  The University of Washington considers plagiarism a serious violation of good academic conduct – please consult the Faculty Resource on Grading Website if you have any questions about this: <http://depts.washington.edu/grading/issue1/honesty.htm>.


On Electronic Readers & Laptops:

Please be advised that I do not permit the use of electronic screens during class discussion or lecture.  I realize that some students prefer to take notes on laptops, but this convenience is counterbalanced by the fact that they distract others.  They also tempt users to multi-task (further distracting others).  Before class, then, please put away your laptop (likewise your smartphone, ipad, etc.).  There is lots of research demonstrating that students learn better by taking notes the old fashioned way, with paper and ink.  I would be glad to go over some of this research with you, should you like. 




Week 1: 

January 3: Introduction to the Bible as Literature

January 5: Genesis 1-11


Week 2:

January 10: Genesis 12-50, from Canvas: "Composition of the Pentateuch"

January 12: Exodus


Week 3:

January 17: Leviticus 1-4, 8, 11-12, 16-17, 19, 23, 25; Numbers 1-2, 10-17, 20-27, 31-33

January 19: Deuteronomy


Week 4:

January 24: Joshua 1-13, 23-24; Judges, Ruth

January 26: *Midterm Examination*


Week 5:  

January 31: 1 & 2 Samuel; from Cultural Contexts section: "The United Monarchy," "The Divided Monarchies," "The End of the Kingdom of Judah" [2240-2242]

February 2: 1 & 2 Kings


Week 6:

February 7: Job, Psalms 1-23, 40

February 9: Proverbs 1-24, 30; Esther (canonical version), Ecclesiastes; from Cultural Contexts section: "The Persian Period and the Hellenistic Period" [2242-2246]


Week 7:

February 14: Song of Solomon, Tobit, Judith *Paper Draft Due*

February 16: Isaiah, Lamentations


Week 8:

February 21: Amos, Daniel, Jonah

February 23: Mark; from Cultural Contexts section: "The Roman Period" [pg. 2247] *Paper Due*


Week 9:

February 28: Luke, Acts of the Apostles

March 2: John


Week 10:

March 7: Letters: Romans, 1 Corinthians, Ephesians, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 & 2 & 3 John, Jude

March 9: Revelation


Final Exam: Wednesday, March 15, 2017, 430-620 pm (!), SAV 264


Catalog Description: 
Introduction to the development of the religious ideas and institutions of ancient Israel, with selected readings from the Old Testament and New Testament. Emphasis on reading The Bible with literary and historical understanding.
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 10:40pm