Participation (10% of course grade) Resources
Regular Writing (15% of course grade) Academic Integrity 
Memorizations (5% of course grade) Grading scale 
Critical Writing (45% of course grade)
Exams (25% of course grade)

PARTICIPATION (10% of course grade)
10% for daily in-class participation [including required meeting]

Attendance is vital to your success in any class, but that is even more true of a seminar. Class discussion should come as a reward for doing the preparation before class and for being present. You should expect to participate in an active and engaged classroom experience, twice a week. Make sure you are in class, ready to begin discussion, when class is scheduled to start. Because I take roll at the very beginning of class, tardiness gets recorded as absence unless you approach me after class to confirm your attendance.

Nothing can replace your experience in the classroom, collectively generating with the rest of the class an understanding of the course material. I realize, however, that there may come a time when you need to miss a class. If you miss no more than two classes and are an active participant, your participation grade will not suffer. After that point, however, you cannot be participating at an effective level. So be warned: if you miss more than two classes, I will be concerned for your grade and your general well-being and will email you. Bear in mind that if you do miss class, you are still responsible for that day’s work, including turning in (on time) any work due, understanding assignments, and getting the gist of class discussion. And when you’re not here, you’re reducing your likelihood of success in the course generally and are directly affecting your participation grade and in-class writing grade.

Before coming to class each day, you should do the following. Each step is necessary.

  • Read the assigned material listed on the schedule, including any introductory material.
  • Respond: Spend time developing your own sense of what you have read, by looking back over it once you’ve finished the reading, and considering what you might say about the text. A good way to do this is by writing a blog post, which is required before every class meeting (see details below).
  • Prepare for textual engagement in class: Bring to class the book(s) from which you did the day’s reading. These should be marked up, to record the experience of your reading so you can call on that when you’re in class discussion. [Special note: On those days when the readings are assigned from PDFs rather than from books, be prepared for me to be paying special attention to ensure you’re not being distracted by things other than the text, on your screen.]
  • Prepare to write in classBe ready to write for 7 minutes at the start of class. Preparation should be mental and physical, with pen and paper or, alternatively, with a laptop or tablet from which you can submit your response to me immediately on OAKS.

Required meeting: Many of you will find yourselves coming to meet with me regularly outside of class, but for those of you who wouldn’t automatically do so, I require an out-of-class meeting early in the semester so you can discover how painless and even enjoyable it is. It also ensures that you know where my office is. This meeting is informal and has no specific content. Simply show up and chat with me for 10-15 minutes. This can happen during my office hours (M 2-3, R 11-12, and by appt.), when you can simply drop in as suits your schedule. If my office hours clash with your schedule, then you’ll need to email me to arrange an alternative meeting time, but that won’t be difficult.

REGULAR WRITING (15% of course grade)
2% for scheduled blog questions
7% for daily blog comments
6% for in-class writing

Blog questions + comments: 

Before every class for which you are assigned a reading, you will post a response on the course blog. Most weeks, this will mean you will post twice: before Tuesday’s class, and before Thursday’s class. Frequent and informal student writing has a number of goals:

  • to prepare everyone for a productive in-class discussion of the material;
  • to encourage both written and spoken informal discussion of the material;
  • to allow for those who are less active in-class participants the opportunity to participate in alternate ways;
  • to provide low-stakes opportunities for students to experiment with a range of types of written responses to the material.

Scheduled blog questions: Each week, one student will be responsible for posting to the blog questions concerning that week’s readings, for all of the other students in class to respond to. Each questioner will post one question before Tuesday’s class, based on the readings for that class meeting, and then one question before Thursday’s class, based on the readings for that class meeting.The questions must be posted at least 24 hours before the class meeting (that is to say, before 12:15 on Monday and Wednesday). This means for the week you are the question-poser, you will need to do the reading in advance so you’re ready to post a question early. Sign up for your blog questioner duties here.

Such questions should not have a single, “correct” answer. Instead, they should offer students the chance to discuss further an idea or issue raised in the reading, more like a prompt you would have for an essay assignment. All students in class will respond to this question, so it will need to offer many possible responses. [Sign up for 2 different weeks as blog questioner here.]

I recommend each question consist of 2-3 sentences: the first one making clear the subject matter (the central issue or concept that the question focuses on), and the next sentence or two presenting the question clearly. Further, the question should not simply ask for student opinion in general (“did you like the poem?” or “what did you think of the protagonist?”), but should instead require respondents to interpret and analyze the text in order to respond.  If our subject matter for class happened to be, for instance, the short children’s poem “I never saw a purple cow. I never hope to see one.  But I can tell you anyhow, I’d rather see than be one,” unproductive questions would be, “Why did the poet choose to make the cow purple?” or “Would you rather be or see a purple cow?”  These simply ask for student opinion in general, rather than encouraging detailed analysis. A productive question would ask, instead, “What kinds of cultural values does this poem pass on to the young audience it addresses?” or “What does the ‘anyhow’ seem to add to the meaning of the poem, making it more than filler to maintain the beat of the poem’s meter?” Successful blog questions might also draw students’ attention to confusing or ambiguous parts of the reading and seek clarification. Your questions will be graded based on how well they encourage a range of student responses (which depends on their being expressed clearly, needless to say).

Blog comments: When you are not scheduled to ask a question, you will produce a response to the blog question before coming to class. You will always have at least 24 hours to do this. Your response should take the form of a comment on the question, which will appear as a post.

These responses should be 4-6 sentences long. Your comment should respond directly to the question and will be even more successful if it pushes readers’ attention in new directions. This means you will need to read others’ responses before writing and posting your own. You will often find that your own response winds up responding not only to the original question but to the comments others have made. (This also means that the sooner you post, the less likely you are to find someone already having written what you would like to.) To receive credit, your comment:

  1. must not repeat what someone has already said in a comment and
  2. must make at least one specific reference to the reading on which the question is based (for instance, a direct quote of at least 2 words but no more than a complete sentence, with the line number [for a poem] or page number [for anything not a poem] listed in parentheses afterwards).

A successful response to the first appropriate question on the purple cow poem might be something like:

The repetition of the “I,” which is the subject for each verb, makes readers focus on the speaker, whose attitude toward purple cows is thus emphasized. When the speaker says, “I can tell you anyhow” (3), the audience is expected to care about the speaker’s values, and the speaker’s resistance to purple cows seems to value the “normal,” the “natural,” the way things are. The speaker wouldn’t even like to see such a thing, much less be so abnormal.

Blog questions will receive specific comments and a grade from me as part of the grading process. Daily blog comments will receive only a grade.

(For some help with the logistics of blogging, see the get blogging! page)

In-class writing: At the start of each class, you will perform informal writing in response to a question I will present on the day’s assigned reading. You will have 7 minutes to respond to the question. Your main goal will be to call on your recollection of the reading (these will not be open-book) to respond directly and specifically, demonstrating your understanding of what you read. These daily writings will get your thoughts flowing for the day’s classroom discussion. If you’d like to improve the quality of your responses (and of your grade), please see me during office hours for personal assistance.

MEMORIZATIONS [5% of course grade]

Memorizations are old school, I realize, and yet they give new readers of Middle English the opportunity to engage with the sound of the language, rather than focusing intently on comprehension (the usual concern as you’re making your way through new material). This assignment is all about process, not product (thus the 3 memorizations cumulatively count for only 5% of your grade). In memorizing Middle English, you begin to distance yourself from the visual appearance of the words on the modern page and instead start to hear them as aural texts, approaching what they would have been for Chaucer’s first audiences. Memorizing also forces you to grapple with issues of pronunciation that are too easily neglected while reading silently. I generally hear these recitations in my office during office hours (M 2-3, R 11-12, and by appointment), but I am happy to work out other accommodations. You’ll find recordings of scholars reading passages aloud online, which you can use to guide your pronunciation. For each memorization, you should choose a passage of at least 12 lines. For the last memorization, you should work on your own, without online assistance, so for that assignment I will expect you to select a passage of your own, not one appearing among the recordings listed on the website to which I linked, above.

CRITICAL WRITING (45% of course grade)

Since the deadlines for written work are so clearly spelled out in the syllabus, late assignments will not be accepted except in very extraordinary circumstances.

First Project (15% of course grade)

We will collaboratively generate the assignment and deadline for this first project. Generally speaking, it will be a paper 5-7 pages long. A complete assignment for the paper will be generated and posted in week 4.

Final Project (30% of course grade)

The Final Project for this course will also be generated collaboratively. A more detailed assignment for all elements in the Final Project will appear on the blog once we’ve developed it, and the relevant deadlines will be determined then, as well.

EXAMS (30% of course grade)

There will be two exams. In advance of both exams, you will receive an exam preparation guide, and we will discuss sample exam responses together in class.

Midterm Exam (10% of course grade)
Cumulative Final Exam  (20% of course grade)


Office hours (5 College Way, room 203) are reserved for you to drop in as suits your schedule, to discuss your writing and/or the course: M 2-3, R 11-12 and by appt. I have plenty of other availability, though, so please email me suggesting an alternative meeting time, at seamanm[at]cofc.edu .

The Writing Lab is located on the first floor of Addlestone Library, within the Center for Student Learning. Here you will find many resources for your writing (for this and other classes): handouts, reference books, sample bibliographies, and consultants who have been trained to assist you in generating materials for your essay, organizing your ideas and materials, revising and editing your writing, and any step in the writing process. You can find information, including hours and schedule, at the link above.

Academic accommodation for a documented disability can be arranged through the Center for Disability Services: 843-953-1431, Lightsey Center, Suite 104. If you are approved for accommodations, please let me know as soon as possible so we can organize appropriate arrangements.


All students, needless to say, must follow the College of Charleston’s academic integrity policy, which forbids cheating, attempted cheating, and plagiarism. Any case of suspected cheating or plagiarism (on any written response for the course) will be sent to the College’s Honor Board, and any student found guilty will receive a grade of XF, indicating failure of the course due to academic dishonesty.

“Recycled” papers written for other courses are not acceptable in this class.

College of Charleston Honor Code and Academic Integrity, from the Student Handbook:

Lying, cheating, attempted cheating, and plagiarism are violations of our Honor Code that, when identified, are investigated.  Each incident will be examined to determine the degree of deception involved.

Incidents where the instructor determines the student’s actions are related more to a misunderstanding will handled by the instructor.  A written intervention designed to help prevent the student from repeating the error will be given to the student.  The intervention, submitted by form and signed both by the instructor and the student, will be forwarded to the Dean of Students and placed in the student’s file.

Cases of suspected academic dishonesty will be reported directly by the instructor and/or others having knowledge of the incident to the Dean of Students.  A student found responsible by the Honor Board for academic dishonesty will receive a XF in the course, indicating failure of the course due to academic dishonesty.  This grade will appear on the student’s transcript for two years after which the student may petition for the X to be expunged.  The student may also be placed on disciplinary probation, suspended (temporary removal) or expelled (permanent removal) from the College by the Honor Board.

Students should be aware that unauthorized collaboration–working together without permission– is a form of cheating.  Unless the instructor specifies that students can work together on an assignment, quiz and/or test, no collaboration during the completion of the assignment is permitted.   Other forms of cheating include possessing or using an unauthorized study aid (which could include accessing information via a cell phone or computer), copying from others’ exams, fabricating data, and giving unauthorized assistance.


A 94-100 4.0
A- 90-93 3.7
B+ 87-89 3.3
B 84-86 3.0
B- 80-83 2.7
C+ 77-79 2.3
C 74-76 2.0
C- 70-73 1.7
D+ 67-69 1.3
D 64-66 1.0
D- 60-63 0.7
F 0-59 0.0