221 – Syllabus


Major British Writers I Section 01


Office Hours

This semester I’ll have two offices on campus. If you would like to set up a conference, call me on my cell above and we can find a convenient time.

University Mission

The mission of Abilene Christian University is to educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world.

Departmental Mission

The mission of the Department of English is to contribute to the University’s core-curriculum goal of writing effectively in English as a result of clear thinking and extensive reading, writing, and observation.

Course Description

English 221 is a sophomore-level, reading-intensive course focusing on the major authors, periods, and themes of British literature before 1789. The course is designed to give students a broad overview of the literature, history, and social and cultural values of each period through the in-depth study of key texts. Additionally, students will evaluate attitudes toward Christianity and spirituality from the past with the ultimate goal of encouraging them to analyze and deepen their own faith.

Required Textbooks

Greenblatt, Stephen, ed. The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 8th ed.  Vol. 1. New York: Norton, 2006.

Faith and Learning

The English Department at ACU shares a common commitment to preparing thoughtful, mature graduates for Christian service and leadership throughout the world. Spiritual maturity doesn’t develop overnight but is nurtured through serious and sustained study of texts sometimes sympathetic to the Christian worldview and sometimes opposed to it. We believe that genuine maturity is formed often by struggling with the issues raised by texts and reflecting on the significance they hold for ourselves and our world. Just as Jacob wrestled with God and was blessed, we believe the questions students encounter during their time at ACU may be as important as the answers in shaping their future faith and character. This course seeks to raise challenging questions that lead students to read carefully, think critically, and communicate clearly.


Course Objectives

This course seeks to help students:

  • develop skills to analyze and interpret texts and authors through strategies of close reading;
  • appreciate the religious, philosophical, political, and social movements which have shaped Britain and the western tradition;
  • identify and analyze texts from a variety of genres and periods;
  • write effectively as a result of clear thinking, extensive reading, and careful observation;
  • appreciate the profound influence of Christianity upon the western tradition;
  • articulate their own worldview as they evaluate the worldviews that inform the course readings.

Course Format

Our class meetings will combine short lectures, class discussions, and small-group discussions. Though I think you will enjoy the discussion format, it does require not only participation but also preparation on your part. To succeed in this class, you will need to leave time to complete the reading, take notes as you read, and respond to the reading. Most classes I teach reward students who actively participate, manage their time carefully, and take a higher level of responsibility for their learning, all of which require an investment of time each week (see the “What It Takes to Earn an A” page).

Course Competencies

By the end of the course you should be able to:

  • interpret texts from a variety of periods and authors with the tools of textual analysis;
  • discuss the unique religious, philosophical, political, and social influences which have shaped these texts and their authors;
  • compose clear and persuasive arguments that draw on careful reading and observation;
  • discuss the far-reaching influence of Christianity upon the western tradition;
  • connect your own views and values to the distinct worldviews that inform the course readings.



  • This semester, I want you to do the reading. Class discussion is only possible when we share common ground. As in most classes, you will retain only the most basic surface details if you don’t read for every class, and read carefully.
  • Careful reading is more than skimming the pages. Your approach may differ from assignment to assignment, but generally taking notes as you read helps cement details, images, and ideas in your mind. Short poems (less than 50 lines) will also become clearer when read a second or third time.
  • Careful reading takes time. Most college courses require at least 2 hours of preparation outside of class for every hour you spend in class, but don’t feel like you need to complete all your reading at one sitting. Take breaks to think about what you’ve read, to respond to an aspect of the reading in your notebook, or just to stand up and get your blood moving again.
  • Take the time to improve your vocabulary. Though many of the works we’ll be reading require occasional trips to the dictionary, our discussions will also expand your technical vocabulary, providing you a broader language with which to discuss literature. Since the most basic communication requires us to share a common language, this is another reason you will want to be in class.


At the beginning of most class days, we will have a short reading quiz. I don’t repeat questions or give make-ups, so you’ll want to be on time. Each quiz will contain basic, factual questions from the assigned reading. Any student who can “pass” all of the reading quizzes for any unit will earn the right to skip a short-answer section on the unit exam. To be eligible to earn this incentive you cannot miss more than one class period per unit for any reason.

All quiz questions will be taken from the reading itself or the biographical introduction. As a rule, you should leave time to read poems and short works at least twice, paying special attention to the structure of the work (its rhythm or meter), its genre or type (comedy, pastoral, sonnet, etc.), and any memorable plot details or figures of speech. These are also the kinds of things it would be helpful to include in your reading notes since you will be allowed to refer to them during each quiz.

Reading Notes

As you complete each of the course readings, you will want to keep a reading notebook. Despite what you’ve heard, the most productive reading is often slow reading. This kind of reading is more than skimming the pages, so one way to improve your comprehension of challenging texts is by taking notes as you read. Individual entries might include plot summaries, unfamiliar vocabulary, character lists, or outlines to help you distinguish authors or readings from one another. These notes will also provide a mine of ideas that can be shaped and polished later in blog posts, projects, or the final portfolio. Your notebook will not be graded but is highly recommended given the scope of the course and the amount of material we will cover.

Blog Posts

This semester our class blog will distribute the typical high-stakes writing assignment over several posts on a range of subjects. Individual posts will not only assist you in reflecting on the material presented in class, but they will also help you develop your critical thinking skills by interpreting what you have been reading each week. Support your arguments with facts and specific examples.

Each student will be responsible for posting five (5) short essays to the class blog. I’ll also be posting content to the blog on many of our readings to prompt your own further reading and research, so the blog may also spur further blog discussion. See the blog post rubric for details. Blog posts turned in late cannot receive a passing grade, so don’t wait until the eleventh hour.

Podcast Project

The first week of classes you will be placed in work groups. In addition to occasional in-class assignments, each group will conduct research on a chosen topic and then produce a short 8-10 minute podcast to introduce a general audience to the subject. Individual projects may take the form of an audio essay, slideshow, video interview, or some other original product which makes use of the unique talents of each group member and can be shared via iTunes U.

This project should allow each group member to participate fully in some way—researching, writing, designing, creating or editing. Evaluation will be based on a number of factors including originality of thought, connection to material, time investment, and level of difficulty and completion. See the Podcast Project assignment on the blog for help getting started.

Unit Exams

There will be three exams during the semester. Each will cover all assigned readings from the previous unit, even those not discussed in class. Any student unable to take an exam on or before the scheduled class period will need to attend the Make-up Exam at the end of the semester. Failure to complete any exam will result in failure of the course.

The final exam will look exactly like previous unit exams except for an additional comprehensive section covering the major readings from the semester. Detailed reading notes early in the semester (the character lists, plot summaries, and outlines from your notebook) will prove invaluable when studying for the final.


Grade Distribution

Your success this semester will require a genuine investment of time on a variety of assignments throughout the semester. If you plan to be concerned about your final grade in December, you will want to set aside time now for the following majors assignments:

Quizzes            10%

Blog Posts      25%

Podcast Project      25%

Unit Exams      40%


All projects and unit exams will be based on the same scale used to determine grades at the end of the semester:

A      =      99-92

B      =      91-83

C      =      82-74

D      =      73-65

F      =      below 65

Above average work (receiving As and Bs) should reflect above average effort, insight, and attention to detail. Average responses to the discussion board revealing little original thinking; a hurried reading of the assigned text, or careless writing will not receive above-average marks.


According to departmental policy, students must attend 80% of the class meetings in order to receive credit for the course, which means for MW classes 7 absences will constitute an F. Excessive absences or lack of participation may also affect your daily average. Finally, if you come in late, it is your responsibility to make sure you were not counted absent.

Any assignments missed during an absence are still binding: it is your responsibility to make arrangements, when possible, before you miss class or to find out what you missed before the next class meeting (check with classmates for announcements and handouts).

Academic Dishonesty

In a traditional classroom, academic dishonesty typically comes up with questions of plagiarism or turning in another’s work as your own. This kind of intellectual theft or fraud has significant consequences in any institution of higher learning. Here, in our own Christian community, academic dishonesty includes larger questions of character and integrity with longer-lasting consequences than failing a class or being suspended from school. Understanding that you share this commitment to honesty in and out of the classroom, we want to affirm that academic dishonesty has no place in an ACU hybrid course. In the event that individual students are suspected of turning in work completed by someone else, their work in the course will be reviewed and may result in their receiving an F in the course. For more information, see the university’s Academic Integrity Policy online:  http://www.acu.edu/campusoffices/campuslife/acad_integrity.html.