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ENGL 210 A: Medieval and Early Modern Literature, 400 to 1600

Meeting Time: 
MW 10:30am - 12:20pm
AND 008
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Leila Kate Norako

Syllabus Description:

English 210 AU23 Syllabus.docx





English 210 A: Medieval and Early Modern Literature


Mondays and Wednesdays, 9:30-11:20am

Zoom link: Join URL:


Dr. Kate Norako

Office: Padelford Hall, A-309

Student Hours: Wednesdays 1-2pm in Padelford A-309, and by appointment.


Course Description:

This course will introduce undergraduate students to Medieval and Early Modern English literature. Students will encounter an array of major works (including BeowulfSir Gawain and the Green Knight, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and Macbeth) but will also study several shorter works that will provide students with a sense of the range and richness of literature written between 400-1600 in England. We will also endeavor as often as possible to place these works in a global context, considering them alongside excerpted works from the premodern Middle East, Africa, India, and Japan among others. While student interest will lead the way in our discussions, we will pay particular attention to the construction of gender in the works that we read, and the way in which these works seem either to affirm or complicate the gender norms and power differentials of their day. We will also look carefully at the ways in which gender and gendered power intersect with representations of religious and cultural difference. Students will be evaluated on their active participation, a series of informal written assignments, and on two formal assignments: an expository/close-reading essay (due at mid-quarter), and a research essay (due at the end of the term).


On Learning in and through the Covid Pandemic:  This class will, unless otherwise stated, meet in person twice a week, and I will hold student hours on a first come first served basis each Wednesday from 1pm-2pm in my office. Given that covid cases are rising, however, it is possible that I will need to move us temporarily to zoom classes and office hours; I occasionally did as much when several students disclosed that they were Covid positive and quarantining throughout last academic year. You are not required to disclose whether you contract covid and are unable to attend class, but I would *greatly* appreciate that transparency; in addition to my spouse being immune suppressed, knowing how many students will be absent on a given day will help me arrive at the most equitable pathway forward (which might sometimes be a temporary shift to zoom). Students who come to class with flu or covid symptoms will be discretely asked to leave to ensure the safety of the class as a whole. I strongly urge the wearing of masks, and almost always have extras on hand if you need one but forgot to bring one with you. In absence of any guidance, resources, or campus-wide testing and tracing by our institution, it is up to us to prioritize the our class community’s wellbeing in these enduringly challenging times.


Course Objectives:

  • To familiarize students with key works of literature from medieval and early modern England in order to provide background for other studies and a historical understanding of literary development.
  • To encounter and investigate literature from the distant past in order to inform our understanding of cultural difference, historical development, and alternative ethical and artistic possibilities.
  • To enhance student’s skills in close/analytical reading, cultural analysis, and collaborative discussions.
  • To improve and augment student’s expository writing skills.
  • To improve and augment student’s scholarly research skills.


Required Readings to Purchase:

Beowulf. Translated by Roy Liuzza.

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Trans. James Winny

Macbeth (Norton, 2nd edition).

Note: You must purchase copies (e-book or print) of these specific editions. You are also responsible for a series of required readings that will be posted in our course readings folder and organized over in the Assignments section of our Canvas page.


Grade Breakdown:

Participation: 15%

Commonplace Book (Informal Writing): 40%

Prospectus/Annotated Bib: 10%

Peer Review (Final Essay): 10%

Final Project: 30%



The success of this class hinges on the active engagement and intellectual curiosity of all in attendance. While I will lecture from time to time, the majority of our class meetings will be focused on and driven by student-led inquiry and interest. Your ideas, interests, questions, etc. will be what propels us forward. As a result, you are expected to come to class having read and synthesized the readings for that day, and with the required readings in hand. Come ready to talk and engage with one another!

  • Attendance:Given that our class will center student-led discussion, you must come to every class meeting on time and prepared to discuss the day’s readings. Failure to attend class regularly will result in a lowered participation grade, so please don’t miss class.

Grading Participation: A 90-100% level participation grade will result from:

  • clear evidence that the reading has been done, and that the student has amply prepared for in-class discussion. They will come to class with independent ideas about the readings, and having made efforts to critically engage with the material (i.e. synthesis, close-reading, comparative analysis, attention to course themes/central questions). They will come prepared to address any specific questions/issues/prompts from the instructor.
  • Active engagement in class. This entails not only generating ideas and taking risks (by asking questions and/or offering up ideas-in-progress), but also listeningto the ideas of others and engaging accordingly. The A-level participant will be able to advance our discussions in class not only by offering up their own ideas but also by responding directly and thoughtfully to the ideas of others.


How To Succeed In This Class:

  1. Do the readings well in advance! And read deeply and carefully. If necessary, read once to sort out the plot, and read a second time to analyze. (Helpful hint: read a reliable plot summary before reading the text itself to help you along!)
  2. Stay up to date on your commonplace book entries and make sure you follow the instructions carefully. These entries are designed to a) help you hone your close reading skills and b) help you participate as fully as possible in our class meetings.
  3. Communicate with your professor! If you have questions or concerns (about meeting deadlines, managing the reading and writing load, how to research a given topic, what to say about a particular text, etc), get in touch. Student hours are perfect for longer conversations, but I am happy to talk briefly before/after class or (if the questions can be swiftly answered) via email.
  4. Complete all major assignments on time, and pace yourself. Avoid writing your major assignments at the 11th hour!
  5. Come to class prepared and with all required materials (notebook/laptop, readings due that day). Be ready to discuss and think hard about the readings. And remember: there are many ways to earn full marks on participation.
  6. Stay focused and engaged in class. Participate actively in class discussions, and remember: there are many ways to participate, and that I value all of them. Also, try not to use electronics in class. And if you must use a laptop for taking notes, avoid the temptation to use it for anything unrelated to class. Not only will you be marked as absent if you’re caught using your computer for anything unrelated to class, but your performance in the class will suffer because you’ll be depriving yourself of the opportunity to learn and hone the skills you need to succeed in your formal assignments.
  7. Stay Organized. In the very first week of class, write down all of your deadlines for all of your classes in a calendar. If you notice that, say, you have three major assignments due the same week, figure out what’s feasible, and ask your professors for what you need well in advance. You’re much more likely to have extension requests granted that way and/or are much more likely to do well on each of those assignments/exams.
  8. Write about what you care about and what genuinely piques your curiosity, because the more invested you are, the more enjoyable and worthwhile the writing and thinking will be, and (nearly always) the better the final written work.



(note: these are brief overviews. Detailed prompts for each of these assignments will be found on our Canvas page)

Commonplace Book (informal writing): This journal will be comprised of a series of short entries that will invite you to deepen your engagement with our reading material. They will also help you get into the practice of near-daily writing, which will be integral to your success on your formal written assignments. To get full marks for this journal, you need to write an entry in advance of each of our class meetings that reflects careful engagement, analysis, and connection-making between texts. You will also be asked to write reflective entries at the end of each week. Please see the prompt in Canvas for complete and detailed instructions.

Final Research Project (8-10 pages): This project will be completed in stages and can take one of two forms: a short research essay of 8-10 pages and a 2page final reflection, or a creative project in a medium of your choosing with a longer (6-7) page reflection.


Other Policies and Notes of Import:

On Technology in the Classroom: I do not, as a rule, ban the use of electronic devices in class. However, I ask that all students remember to be respectful of their peers and refrain from using their electronic devices for anything aside from our work in the classroom (i.e. no Facebook, game playing, etc – that kind of engagement is profoundly distracting to those around you). It is very obvious when students are surfing the web/watching movies/playing games/checking Facebook, and students who do so will get a zero for participation for that class meeting. 

On Canvas: Our class portal will be the predominate way in which you’ll keep up to date on course announcements, and is also where you will gain access to supplementary course materials. All secondary readings will be found there, as well as additional resources on Middle English pronunciation and the like. All assignment prompts will be posted there as well, and unless otherwise stated, all formal written assignments will be submitted to Canvas, and all feedback from me will be found there as well.

Email and Student/Office hours: If you have a question that can be answered in 1-2 sentences, please feel free to send an email, and I will respond as soon as possible (if you email me over the weekend, expect a response no earlier than noon on Monday). If your questions require a lengthy response, please bring them to me during office hours. If my office hours conflict with your class schedule, contact me and we will find an alternate time/way to meet. Please note that I am committed to checking email at least once a day on weekdays, and ask that all of you make the same commitment.

On Plagiarism: The Student Conduct Code defines plagiarism as follows:

“Plagiarism, . . .  is the submission or presentation of someone else’s words, composition, research, or expressed ideas, whether published or unpublished, without attribution. Plagiarism includes, but is not limited to:

  1. The use, by paraphrase or direct quotation, of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgment; or
  2. The unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or acquired from an entity engaging in the selling of term papers or other academic materials.”

If plagiarism is suspected, a student will be asked to meet with me, and the following general rules/procedures will apply:

  • For minor infractions (1-2 missing citations, failure to use quotation marks in 1-2 instances, clear evidence that plagiarism was accidental, etc):
    • Option either to revise and earn up to 75% for the assignment in question; or to abandon the assignment. Final grade will be an average of the rest of the assignments in the course.
    • Possible reporting of said student to the Dean’s Representative for Academic Conduct
  • For major infractions (i.e. numerous plagiarized passages, clear evidence that the essay was written by someone else and/or stolen or purchased wholesale)
    • Automatic zero for the assignment.
    • No option for revision of said assignment.
    • Automatic reporting of said student to the Dean’s Representative for Academic Conduct.

The bottom line:  I take plagiarism very seriously because I believe strongly in the value of the work I’ve assigned you. I want you to learn and grow through the work that I’m asking you to do in this class, and that learning and growth will not happen if you take the work of another person and pass it off as your own. 

A note on AI: I strictly prohibit the use of AI in the completion of your formal and informal written assignments. Not only are you engaging in a form of plagiarism when you make use of these programs ,but you also rob yourself of the opportunity to think for yourself and to hone your critical thinking ,writing, and revision skills through the assignments assigned in this class. Added to which, using AI will invariably result in a poor grade because AI cannot produce new ideas and nuanced close readings. It can, at best, regurgitate the ideas that it has been fed already. What this means is that an essay produced through or reliant upon AI-generated content will typically end up with a D or low C at most. It is far and away in your best interests, then, to produce your own work.

Access and Accommodations: It is very important to me that all students are able to thrive in this classroom environment. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to: mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or  (Links to an external site.)DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions.  Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.

On DACA: The University of Washington strives to provide a safe, secure, and welcoming environment that protects the privacy and human rights of everyone in our community. UW’s longstanding policies do not permit immigration officials to enter UW classrooms or residence halls without a court order, and I will not share any information about a student’s immigration status. For guidance regarding immigration status, please consult the following resource through Leadership Across Borders ( and the following through the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity ( You can also email with questions and concerns.

On Religious Accomodations: “Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

On Our Classroom Environment: Our classroom will be radically inclusive, open to ideas, questions, and debates born out of genuine curiosity and rooted in a desire for knowledge and intellectual growth. It will be a space for rigorous and deep discourse, and it will be a space that actively rejects and resists racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, religious intolerance, and misogyny.

















September 27th

Introduction to the Course

1) The syllabus!

2) Commonplace book instructions


By Friday of this week, create your google doc Commonplace Book and share the link in the relevant Canvas forum. Remember to grant Dr. Norako edit access so that she can leave comments.





October 2nd

Intro to Early Medieval English Literature and Culture

1) Introduction to the Exeter Book Elegies

2) “The Wanderer”

3) “The Wife’s Lament”

4) “The Dream of the Rood”

5) “The Ruin”


Commonplace Book Entry 1

October 4th



1) Beowulf, pgs 49-87

2) Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Seven Theses” (from Monster Culture) (CANVAS)

Commonplace Book Entry 2

October 6th



Week 2 Reflective CP Entry

(due by 12pm)





October 9th

Beowulf, Part II



Beowulf, 87-145

 Read over and complete the following:

Commonplace Book Entry 3

Commonplace Book Entry 4: Use this entry to complete the instructions in the UNC “Initial Planning” guide.

October 11th

Beowulf in Context

 The Risala of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan

Beowulf (review)

Toni Morrison, “Grendel and His Mother”

The Risala, Ibn Fadlan (Canvas)

Commonplace Entry 5

October 13th



Week 3 Reflective Entry due by 12pm.









Oct. 16th

The Old English Judith


The Poetry of Wallada

1)  Judith

2) Excerpts from Wallada’s poetry (CANVAS)

Commonplace Entry 6

Oct. 18th

On Monsters, Men, and Women in Medieval Romance

“Wulf and Eadwacer” (CANVAS)

Bisclavret (CANVAS)

Victoria Blud’s article “Wolves’ Heads and Wolves’ Tales” (CANVAS)

Read over and complete the following:

Commonplace Book Entry 7: Focus this entry on Blud’s article. Identify her Thesis/central argument, and comment on the structure and approach that she takes. What kinds of things does she use to support her claims? How does the structure of her article (the order in which she discusses each sub-topic) help make her argument and its stakes clear?

Commonplace Book entry 8: Use this entry to complete the instructions in the UNC “Choosing your Topic” guide. In addition, discuss in this entry what format you want to pursue and, if you’re taking the creative route, what medium(s) you’re considering.

Oct 20th



Week 4 Reflective Entry Due by 12pm.





Oct. 23rd

Medieval Romance

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

 (Fitts 1 and 2)

Commonplace Book Entry 9

Oct 25th

Medieval Romance

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Fitt 3)

Commonplace Book Entry 10

Oct 26th



Week 5 reflective entry due by 12pm.





Oct 30th.

SGGK in Context

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

(Fitt 4)


Excerpts from Cleanness

 If you are reading this, youve found the easter egg. Please send Dr. Norako an email ( with a picture of your favorite animal by Friday, September 27th.

Commonplace Book Entry 11 (special instructions):


Go to the UW library website and search for a scholarly article on SGGK. Search not only for the text but for keywords that are relevant to your interests (i.e. ecocriticism, gender, women, masculinity, monsters, Otherness etc.).

Read the article, and identify both its central claim and the main ways in which it supports that claim.

Write and reflect on this article and its relation to your own reading of the text. Do you agree/disagree? Has this article made you reassess certain aspects of the text?

Commonplace Book Entry 12:write a draft of your project proposal, and at least two sample annotations of a source you have found that will help you in your work.

Nov 1st

Women Mystics and Saints:

Margery Kempe in Context

Broadview Excerpts of the Booke of Margery Kempe and the Shewings of Julian of Norwich(CANVAS)


Poems by Laldyada (CANVAS)

Commonplace Book Entry 13

Nov 3rd



Week 6 Reflective entry due by 12pm.


Prospectus and annotated bibliography for final project due to canvas by 11:59pm





Nov 6th  

Chaucer’s Wife of Bath

The Wife of Bath’s General Prologue description, “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” ; Emma Lipton’s “Love and Marriage in The Wife of Bath’s Prologue” (CANVAS)

Excerpts from The Tale of Genji

Commonplace Book Entry 14

Nov 8th


“The Wife of Bath’s Tale” (CANVAS); Carissa Harris’ “Rape and Justice in the Wife of Bath’s Tale” (CANVAS)

Commonplace Book Entry 15


Additional Homework for in class debate: Come to class with any/all evidence in support of your “team’s” argument



Nov 10th



Week 7 Reflective entry due by 12pm.





Nov 13th

Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale

The Man of Law’s Prologue + Tale (excerpted)

Excerpts from the Kebra Nagast.

Cord Whitaker “Race and Racism in The Man of Laws Tale” (CANVAS)

Commonplace Entry 16: Man of Law/Kebra Nagast



Nov 15th

The Early Modern Pamphlet Wars: Rachel Speight and Jonathan Swetnam

Early Modern Reader I : The Pamphlet Wars

Commonplace Entry 17

Nov 17th



Reflective entry for

Week 8: Submit a COMPLETE draft of your project to Canvas no later than 9pm. Peer Review groups will be populated shortly thereafter.





Nov 20th


Macbeth, I-II

Commonplace Book Entry 19

Peer Review follow-up discussion

Nov 22nd

Macbeth, cont’d

Macbeth Act III-IV


Peer Review

Commonplace entry 20



Nov 24th



Week 9 Reflective entry due by 12pm.





Nov 27th



Macbeth Act V and adaptation of your choice.

Commonplace entry 21

Nov 29th

Early Modern Poetry


Early Modern Reader


Commonplace entry 22

Dec. 1st



Week 10 Reflection due at 12pm

Week 11




Dec. 4th

Early Modern Poetry II

Early Modern Reader

Commonplace entry 23

Dec. 6th

Concluding Discussion

No reading

Commonplace entry 24 (Course Reflection Entry)





December 8th



Commonplace Book Due by 5pm

December 11th



Final Project Due by 12pm




Catalog Description: 
Introduces literature from the Middle Ages and the Age of Shakespeare, focusing on major works that have shaped the development of literary and intellectual traditions of these periods. Offered: AWSp.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
April 15, 2023 - 5:55am