Friday, June 7, 2013

Ecocriticism and Medieval England


This is a senior-level interdisciplinary capstone course. All students are required to choose one such course, not taught within their major department, as a general-education requirement.  I'm using "medieval" here to include the Anglo-Saxon period as well as the later Middle Ages, though I'm focusing only on Old and Middle English texts (in translation) -- no Latin or Anglo-Norman.

Ecocriticism and Medieval England (PR 448HY)
Dr. Heide Estes
Fall 2012

Course Description
Ecocriticism, a recent movement in humanities that investigates the ways in which literary and documentary texts interact with ecology and environmental crisis, insists on interdisciplinarity.  This course will introduce students to the literature and history of England in the Middle Ages from the perspective of how the people of the period thought about the natural world, including landscapes as well as animals, and their place in and with respect to it.  We will read historical documents from the period alongside literature and consider how real and imagined descriptions of the natural world represent and/or influence how contemporary readers think about the relationships between humans and other aspects of the land.  The course will address ethical and social issues involved with human relationships to, interactions with, and places in nature, and how ideas and ideals articulated prior to the modern era continue to shape the ways in which we think about the natural world.


Course Goals and/or Objectives (instructor will…)
1.      Explain and discuss ecocriticism as a way of foregrounding environmental concerns, descriptions, and constructions in historical documents and literary texts.
2.      Teach students about Old and Middle English history and culture through primary texts including charters and chronicles as well as secondary texts about the history of the period.
3.      Read and discuss (in translation) Old and Middle English literary texts, focusing on depictions of animals and landscapes, and the ways in which humans, although part of the natural world, are often depicted as separate from it.

Assessable learning outcomes (students will…)
1.      Students will apply an interdisciplinary approach to evaluate ethical and social issues appropriate to the course.
2.      Students will articulate causes and propose solutions to social and ethical issues by drawing on multiple sources reflecting at least two different disciplines.
3.      Students will work collaboratively, ideally with students from other disciplines, to arrive at multi-disciplinary perspectives to form viewpoints, solve problems, or reflect on the human experience.
4.      Students will use written and oral presentations to demonstrate their understanding of interdisciplinarity and to evidence a capability of addressing ethical and social issues.

Grading
To pass the course, you must submit all assignments.
·         collaborative 20-slide power-point presentation with notes (10%) and 3-page essay on outcomes of collaboration (5%) , due December 4
·         individual oral presentation about medieval land use (10%), leading into 5-page essay (15%): presentations scheduled throughout the semester; essay due one week after presentation
·         on-line discussion participation (20%)
·         in-class participation (10%)
·         midterm essay exam (10%), October 16
·         final exam including short answer and essay questions (20%), December 18, 10:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.

Required Readings
Books to buy in book store
·         Greg Garrard, Ecocriticism: The New Critical Idiom (New York: Routledge, 2004)
·         Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney (New York: Norton, 2010)
·         W. S. Merwin, trans. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (New York: Knopf, 2004)
On line texts:
·         Maps: http://www.medart.pitt.edu/image/england/maps/main-maps-britain.html
·         Kevin Crossley-Holland, trans. The Exeter Book Riddles (Enitharmon Press, 2008)
http://www.technozen.com/exeter/
·         The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle:
Translation: http://omacl.org/Anglo/
Old English: http://asc.jebbo.co.uk/e/e-L.html
·         Geoffrey Chaucer, The Parliament of Fowls. 
Middle English: http://www.machias.edu/faculty/necastro/chaucer/texts/pf/pf07.html
Translation by Gerard NeCastro: http://www.machias.edu/faculty/necastro/chaucer/translation/pf/pf.pdf
·         The Second Shepherd’s Play, ed. Douglas Sugano.  In: The N-Town Plays. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007. 
Middle English text: http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/sdnt16frm.htm
Modernized and modified by Karen Saupe: http://www.calvin.edu/academic/engl/215/ssp.htm
Texts on eCampus:
·         Oliver Rackham, “The Medieval Countryside of England: Botany and Archaeology,” in Inventing Medieval Landscapes: Senses of Place in Western Culture, ed. John Howe and Michael Wolfe (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002), pp. 13 – 32.
·         Richard C. Hoffman, “Homo et Natura, Homo in Natura: Ecological Perspectives on the European Middle Ages,” in Engaging with Nature: Essays on the Natural World in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, ed. Barbara A. Hanawalt and Lisa J. Kiser (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008), pp. 11 – 38.
·         Sarah Foot, “Finding the Meaning of Form: Narrative in Annals and Chronicles,” in Writing Medieval History, ed. Nancy Partner (New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 88-108.
·         Selections from English Historical Documents, vol. 3, 1189-1327, ed. Harry Rothwell and vol. 4, 1327-1485, ed.  Alec R. Myers 

Grouped Discussion

Grouped discussion is the primary on-line component of this course.  In order to pass the course, students must participate regularly and thoughtfully in on-line discussions.  Each student is assigned to one of four discussion groups for the duration of the semester.  Each week, there are two grouped discussion areas. 

One is for comments and questions: what did you learn?  What questions do you have?  Each week, each student must post at least one comment and at least one question; the group leader/summarizer for that week will post these into a group post so that other students can see the other groups’ comments and questions.  The group summaries are due at midnight each Friday.  There are no responses required for these comments and questions, but students may respond if they wish; the comments and questions are helpful to me in knowing when topics have not been understood and I should spend more time on them. 

A second grouped discussion will involve a different topic each week.  Sometimes, all four groups will respond to the same question or prompt; other weeks, different groups will have different assignments.  For these discussions, individual group members should write about 200 words in the initial grouped discussion posts.  Group summaries (of 500 to 100 words) are due at 12 midnight on Fridays; IN ADDITION, all students must respond (in a post of 200 to 300 words) to the three other groups’ comments in a single additional post.  These individual responses are due at 12 noon on Monday (giving me time to read them before Tuesday’s class).

Recommendation: compose your post in a word-processing program, and then cut and paste into eCampus: it’s easy to lose work on eCampus.  Please do not attach files to the eCampus discussion areas.

Your grade for your work in grouped discussions (20 percent of the final course grade) will be based on the number and quality of your contributions.  To get full credit for this portion of the course, you need to complete all of the discussion assignments, taking appropriate responsibility for group summaries, and do so thoroughly, thoughtfully, and in timely fashion.

Readings and Due Dates

Sept. 4             Introduction to Ecocriticism and Medieval England

[Sept. 7]          Read Garrard, Ecocriticism, Chapter 2: “Positions”
Grouped Discussion: Introductions and Environmental Positions
Locate your own ecological place with respect to the “positions” described in the chapter.  Choose two of the “positions” and consider how they contribute to your views, differ from your views, challenge your views.  Also, introduce yourself: what is your major? What do you plan/hope to do after graduation? Why did you sign up for this course?  What do you hope to learn? In what ways do you hope/fear/expect to be challenged?
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday, September 7; individual responses to the other groups’ comments due at 12 noon on Monday, September 10.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from the first class meeting and this week’s readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday, September 7; no responses due.

Sept. 11           Beowulf, beginning to line 1676

[Sept. 14]        Garrard, “Animals,” pages 152-158, 170-173
Grouped Discussion: Grendel
Read and re-read the descriptions of Grendel, and compare with descriptions of humans (e.g. Beowulf, Hrothgar), and of animals (e.g. horses, sea-creatures).  Is Grendel animal? Human? Something else?  Each member of the group should provide three different phrases/lines from the text giving evidence for the point of view.  (Make sure to quote the lines precisely and to cite the line numbers.)  Also include at least two references to Garrard’s discussion of animals (using accurate quotations and page citations).  Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Sept. 18           Manuscript production: class meets in Library, Room 102

[Sept. 21]        Garrard, “Dwelling,” pages 117-122, 129-137, 142-145.
Grouped Discussion: Swamp
Read and re-read the descriptions of Grendel’s (mother’s) mere, and compare with descriptions of water (e.g. Beowulf’s sea-crossing by ship, and the swimming contest with Breca) and of land.  How is swamp different from other water or landscape?  How is it similar?  Each member of the group should provide three different phrases/lines from the text giving evidence for the point of view.  (Make sure to quote the lines precisely and to cite the line numbers.)  Each group member should also reference two points made by Garrard; make sure to quote precisely and to cite page numbers.  Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Sept. 25           Beowulf, line 1677 to end
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle entries for 678-679, 733-734, 761, 793-816, 878, 891, 894-897, 926, 933, 938, 961, 963, 975-976, 1004-1005, 1014, 1048, 1053-1054, 1065, 1073, 1077, 1085-1086, 1097, 1103, 1110, 1116-1117, 1124, 1135, 1137

[Sept. 28]        Foot, “Finding the Meaning of Form”
Grouped Discussion: Reading Chronicle
Consider Foot’s distinction between “annal” and “chronicle.”  Do you see, in the excerpts you’ve read from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a development from one to the other? What kinds of things change as you read through the entries in chronological order? What kinds of things stay the same?  Provide at least two quotations each from the ASC and from Foot’s essay. Be sure to quote precisely, citing years for Chronicle quotations and pages for Foot.  Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Oct. 2              Exeter Book Riddles 1-3, 5, 11-12, 14, 16-17, 20-21, 23, 26-28, 31a, 32-33, 35, 40, 42,
                        47, 53, 60, 77, 83, 85-86, 91.

[Oct. 5]                        Garrard, “Pastoral,” pages 37-44, 63-65
Grouped Discussion: Comparing Landscape
Compare features of the landscape as described in Beowulf, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the Old English Riddles.  What are some of the biggest differences? Some of the closest similarities?  How does form (epic, riddle, chronicle) affect landscape description?  Each student should include two quotations (brief – one to three lines, or a sentence or two) each from Beowulf, Chronicle, and Riddles, and the person compiling the group summary should include all of these.  Note that Chronicle citations are by year, others by line of poetry. 
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Oct. 9              Rackham, “The Medieval Countryside”

[Oct. 12]          Grouped Discussion: Review and synthesis
                        [details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Oct. 16                        Midterm Exam

[Oct. 19]          Grouped Discussion: Hybrid learning
Consider your experience of this course so far as a hybrid course in the context of traditionally taught, hybrid, and/or on-line courses you’ve taken in the past.  Some questions you might consider: How does on-line learning enable education? How does it restrict it? How do traditional communities interact with virtual ones?  How are workplaces similar to schools? how are they different? why do these questions matter? How is learning social? In what ways does on-line learning enable social aspects of learning?  in what ways do traditional classrooms do so? How do traditional classrooms shape the educational experience? How might on-line learning environments replicate that? change it?
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Oct. 23                        Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Fitts I and II (pages 2 to 77)
[midterm grades due]

[Oct. 26]          Grouped Discussion:
                        [details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Oct. 30                        Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Fitts III and IV (pages 78 to 171)

[Nov. 2]          Garrard, “Wilderness,” pages 66-70, 76-79
Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Nov. 6             English Historical Documents, 1189-1327 [selections on eCampus]
[Last day to withdraw with automatic “W”]

[Nov. 9]          Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Nov. 13           English Historical Documents, 1327-1485 and 1485-1558 [selections on eCampus]

[Nov. 16]        Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Nov. 20           Thursday schedule; no class meeting

[Nov. 23]        Day after Thanksgiving: no on-line exercise due

Nov. 27           Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls

[Nov. 30]        Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Dec. 4              Second Shepherd’s Play
                        Collaborative slide presentation and individual essay due

[Dec. 7]           Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What did you learn from this week’s class meeting and readings?  What question(s) do you have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Dec. 11                        Hoffmann, “Homo et Natura, Homo in Natura”

[Dec. 14]         Garrard, “The Future of Ecocriticism” (pages 201-205)
Grouped Discussion:
[details to be posted]
Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; individual responses due at 12 noon on Monday.
Grouped Discussion: Comments and Questions
What are three things you find most important from what you learned from this semester’s class meeting and readings?  What three question do you still have? Group summaries due at 12 midnight on Friday; no responses due.

Dec. 18 10:45 to 12:45           Final exam

Study Skills and Strategies
·         Keep up with assigned readings.  Don’t assume you’ll be able to catch up next weekend, or during fall break.  Don’t get behind.
·         Take notes, in class and on what you read.  If I write something on the board, it should be in your notes, and you should know why.  Take notes on what I say in class and on what your classmates say: frequently, they will make good points.
·         Stop me and ask questions about anything that’s unclear.  Ask me, not your neighbor, because if you ask your neighbor, you’ll both miss the next thing.
·         Review your notes periodically.   Anything unclear? Post to the “comments and questions” discussion area, or ask me in the next class.
·         Take advantage of short breaks between classes and other activities to do a little reading or studying. 
·         If you have a long chunk of study time, take frequent breaks, and switch regularly between subjects.  Don’t, for instance, try to read the same textbook for four hours straight.

What is a "Hybrid" Course?

A hybrid course combines components of on-line and traditional courses.  In this course, we meet once a week for an hour and 15 minutes instead of twice a week, and students work on line to make up for the time that would otherwise be spent in class.

In this class, the course readings are the same as they would be for a traditional class.  The graded assignments are similar to those required in all Interdisciplinary Perspectives courses, and include individual and collaborative presentations as well as papers and exams.

Once a week, the course will meet in person for a traditional meeting combining lecture and discussion.  In addition, students will participate in weekly on-line grouped and whole-class discussions in which they contemplate a literary or documentary text from the perspective of the course's aims to think about medieval lived environments.  In addition, grouped discussions specifically devoted to comments and questions allow students to discuss what they've learned and what they have questions about, bridging the on-line work and in-class meetings.

The course readings are the same for this class as they would be if the course were being offered in traditional form.  Collaborative presentations will be prepared as annotated powerpoint slide shows and shared on line rather than presented in class, but other course assignments, including individual presentations, papers, and exams, will be completed and presented as they would be in a traditional course.  One difference is that papers will be submitted on-line via eCampus DropBox, and feedback and grades will be provided using the DropBox utility rather than graded and annotated papers being handed back in class.

Hybrid classes allow students increased flexibility.  The amount of time spent in class is reduced, and the on-line activities can be done at times that fit individual students' schedules.  On-line work can typically be done in several shorter sessions rather than in a single class-length work period.  Students can work from home -- or from a coffee shop, the library, the car repair shop, or wherever else they have internet connectivity.  Students do not need to use a computer lab to complete course assignments.

On-line classroom components foster a community that can be different from the community created in a traditional classroom -- potentially more dispersed yet more cohesive, with the possibility for students to take greater possession and control of learning.  Traditional classroom settings are often passive for students; on-line learning requires more active engagement and thus can improve student learning -- but only if students are in fact engaged.

The students who succeed best in courses that include on-line learning are those who are mature and have good time-management skills.  In addition to attending class, students will need to log on to the course web site two to three times per week and complete on-line assignments.  Completing written on-line work means not being able to show up to class and sit without participation.  Students need actually to do the reading and write their responses.

On-line discussion groups increase interaction between students, something difficult to accomplish during traditional face-to-face classes because of limited class time and seating difficult to accommodate good group work.  Students with different kinds of learning and interaction styles can be accommodated by hybrid classes.  Students can take time to think about what they write in on-line discussions rather than having to think on their feet as in a traditional class discussion.  Many students are more comfortable sharing ideas on line, particularly in a small on-line group, than in front of an entire class.

The technology involved in taking a hybrid course can feel difficult at the beginning, especially for students who haven't used eCampus significantly before.  However, learning to use technology for a variety of purposes is an important work-related skill and using different aspects of learning management software helps to prepare students to learn technological applications that will be needed in work environments.

Hybrid courses exist at the sometimes uneasy junctions of modern life between traditional modes of thinking, communicating, finding and transmitting information, and new, internet-mediated ones.  The internet is changing the ways we access information, learn, and communicate, in ways that we probably won't fully understand for another generation or two.

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