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English Renaissance Period

Course Details

Course Number
Section Number
Spring 2012
Prothro-Yeager Hall
Classroom Number
Days & Times

ENGL 4783-201

TR 2-3:30 PM PY 201

Dr. Peter Fields (view Profile)


William Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Constance Jordan, editor. 2nd edition Longman Cultural Edition
Ovid's Metamorphoses The Arthur Golding Trans
Ovid's Metamorphoses: The Arthur Golding Translation of 1567. Ed. John Frederick Nims. Paul Dry Books
Penguin Classic Paper Trade Ed. Thomas P. Roche, Jr.
The Art of Shakespeare's Sonnets
Helen Vendler The Belknap Press/Harvard
Course Objectives

English Department Goals

GOAL 1. Critical Inquiry

Objective 1.1:  Student engages in an increasingly sophisticated discourse and demonstrates aesthetic and critical discernment through close textual analysis.

Objective 1.2:  Student evaluates secondary sources and applies skills in information gathering and management, and document design, using traditional sources and emerging technologies.

GOAL 2.  Knowledge of Language and Literature

Objective 2.1:  Student understands the usage and structure of the English language.

Objective 2.2:  Student recognizes the stylistic techniques that distinguish key literary texts relevant to subject and genre.

Objective 2.3:  Student is familiar with the legacy of important ideas and contexts associated with literary periods.

Objective 2.4:  Student is introduced to academic and professional publications in the field.

GOAL 3.  Writing as Process

Objective 3.1:  Student reflects on his or her arguments over multiple stages of development.

Objective 3.2:  Using traditional resources and emerging technologies, the student references and formats primary and secondary sources in MLA style.

GOAL 4.  Engagement

Objective 4.1:  Student is aware of a cultural context for his or her own values and those of his or her sources.

Course Expectations

Writing about Golding, Spenser, and Shakespeare

Students must write four seven-paragraph essays about material we cover in class (the fourth will be a Blue Book Final Exam). The first paragraph should be written last because it features the clearest and most comprehensive formulation of the student’s argument. The first paragraph ends on a set-up that contextualizes the Block Quote that follows.

 The Block Quote is so long that we do not use quotation marks for it. Instead, we push the whole passage over 10 spaces on the left. The paragraph that follows the Block Quote distills key ideas from it with an emphasis on originality and insight—even critical writing is creative

And thus the earth which late before had neyther shape nor hew,

Did take the noble shape of man and was transformed new.

Then sprang up first the golden age, which of it selfe maintained

The truth and right of every thing unforct and unconstrained.

There was no fear of punishment, there was no threatening lawe

In brazen tables nayled up, to keepe the folke in awe.

There was no man would crouch or ceepe to Judge with cap in hand,

They lived safe without a Judge, in everie Realme and lande. (1.101-108)

Here Golding’s Ovid invites us to the heart of the Renaissance. Golding reminds us that the last act of creation is that which gives all things a human dimension. This final creation is really best understood as metamorphosis. The creation of human beings is the same thing as remaking the universe with a human form. No matter what we discover in the universe we are really finding some heretofore unexplored or unacknowledged aspect of ourselves. Therefore, we were by nature in harmony with all things, because we were all things. There was no natural enmity between us and what we perceive because what we perceived was simply another aspect of ourselves. The first age of the world did not require a Decalogue. It was not necessary to set limits upon people because there was nothing about us—or the universe—that erred, if by error we mean encroaching upon or violating someone or something else. The universe came from us and returned to us. We did not have to prey upon it or engage in destructive activities. No one had to decree edicts to insure justice. We were a law unto ourselves not by usurpation but by design. Human nature was nature—there was nothing incompatible with our true selves. 

The third and fourth paragraphs, character and irony respectively, each require at least four short verbatim passages (Short Quotes) not found in the Block Quote. Short Quotes do require quotation marks and are always immediately followed by the parenthetical reference (line numbers, not page numbers in the case of poetry). A Short Quote may simply be a key phrase or even one word, but no more than three lines. If more than one line is cited, a forward-slash is necessary.

 The following example illustrates citing lines from Spenser’s The Faerie Queene (parenthetical numbers indicate book, canto, stanza, and line): 

In regard to character, the point of Spenser’s Duessa, a witch-like antagonist based on the Whore of Babylon in St. John’s Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation), is that we are under an enchantment that has convinced us (like Duessa has convinced the Redcrosse knight) that false is true and true is false, a “crafty cunning” ( that “doth maske in visour faire, / And cast her colours dyed deepe in graine, / To seeme like Truth” (3-5). Duessa is “Great maistresse of her art” (8), which is designed to render the Redcrosse knight powerless, as when he drinks of a cursed pond after sporting with her in the shade: “Drunke of the streame, as cleare as cristall glas, / Eftsoones his many forces gan to faile, / And mightie strong was turned to feeble fraile” (6.3-6). …

 When citing a play, the numbers in the parentheses refer to act, scene, and line (5.1.33-32). 

In regard to character, Prince Hamlet is both careless of his soul, and yet preoccupied with it. When Horatio warns him not to follow King Hamlet’s ghost, the Prince responds in typical cavalier fashion “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee” (1.4.65). However, instead of racing to revenge himself on Claudius, the Prince mulls the possibility that indeed the ghost might be a demonic tempter, who takes advantage of “my weakness and my melancholy” (2.2.580) in order to “damn me” (582). More precisely, Hamlet, while casual in terms of this present world, is ever vigilant in matters pertaining to another world. Perhaps hell, not only purgatory, has intruded on his awareness . . . 

The fourth paragraph of the essay concerns irony (and begins “In regard to irony, …) where the significance of a given scene or passage is the opposite of what we expected. The irony paragraph also employs at least four SQs not previously used.

 The fifth and sixth paragraphs comprise the CRITICAL REVIEW. Paragraph FIVE must offer a sustained and relevant discussion from one of the prefaces or companion readings provided in our edition of Hamlet. We need to acknowledge the author and provide page numbers (in parentheses) even if we are putting the author’s ideas in our own words. We must have at least one direct quote from the author:

 In regard to my critical review, I want to cite Constance Jordan, the editor of the Longman Cultural Edition of Hamlet, who reminds us that, according to tradition, ghosts from purgatory usually ask for prayers from their family (183). This ghost, on the other hand, rather profanely, even incredibly, on his own behalf, seeks revenge against the killer who put him in purgatory. Indeed, if the Prince carries out such a request, far from rescuing his father, he will succeed only in damning himself: “As murder in another name, this kind of revenge was not a request that Catholic Doctrine could condone, particularly from a sinful soul in purgatory” (183). There is good reason, as Jordan observes, to regard this ghost as a diabolical imposter, merely purporting to be King Hamlet: “In light of Christian doctrine, the Ghost is suspect” (183). … 

We must always acknowledge the source of an idea, even if we aren’t quoting from that source. Even if we put an author’s ideas in our own words, we must name the author and provide a parenthetical page:

 Constance Jordan makes the point that, whether Protestant or Catholic, most English people in Shakespeare’s time, if not at every moment, at least some of the time wondered if they were attended by an invisible entourage of both hostile and kindly spirits (157). If Protestant and Catholic disagreed on the nature of the spiritual world, it had to do mostly with the question of faith versus works (183). In other words, as Jordan explains, ghosts from Purgatory would imply that there was something human beings had to do to be worthy of salvation if only in the form of temporary suffering, not unlike Christ’s suffering on the cross: “For a Protestant, however, Christ’s sacrifice was entirely sufficient; to say that a Christian might earn salvation by moral action was to misread Scripture” (183, my emphasis).

 Please, don’t start with the quote and then back into its significance:

 “So he chose to feign dullness, and pretend an utter lack of wits” (225) is a phrase that tells us where Shakespeare is going with Prince Hamlet, which is to adapt Grammaticus. 

Students should indicate the significance of a quote in their own words, especially in the way they lead up to a quote:

 In the original story by Saxo Grammaticus, Amleth decides that his best tactic would be to play the part of a lunatic, oblivious and heedless of all around him: “So he chose to feign dullness, and pretend an utter lack of wits” (225).

 Here is an example of a character paragraph for Golding’s Ovid:

 In regard to character, Golding’s Prometheus is that secondary creator who is focused on making a creature “in likenesse to the Gods that governe everie thing” (96). We cannot help but notice that the creation story in Golding’s Ovid starts with a “rude confused masse” (34). God (or Nature) sets boundaries, assigning the celestial regions to the stars and the gods (79-83). The last act of creation was embodied by Prometheus who molded a human shape. This last act of creation did more than create one more player in the scheme of things. The creation of human beings changed everything. Through this human shape the universe “was transformed new” (102). There is no doubt that Golding’s Prometheus meant for humans to emulate the gods in “depth of knowledge, reason, wit, and high capacitie” (89) and to aspire ever greater than themselves in a visionary sense: “He [Prometheus] gave to Man a stately looke replete with majestie. / And willed him to behold the Heaven with countenance cast on hie” (98-99). But Prometheus had in mind something more thoroughgoing than mere authority. His secondary creation gave the entire world its basic character and organizing principle: a human dimension accessible to human sense and human understanding. Indeed, Golding’s Ovid hints that the creation of human beings is part and parcel of what it means to bring order out of chaos: “And thus the earth which late before had neyther shape nor hew, / Did take the noble shape of man” (101-102).

 The sixth paragraph (which continues the critical review) should introduce a series of related points from an outside source (e.g., a scholarly article from a Moffett-supported database like Academic Search Complete or a serious title from the Moffett book stacks). The idea is to offer a sustained discussion of a thought in your outside source and then come back to your own point. There should be at least one direct quote from the outside source (up to four lines of your typing).

NOTE: We’re not obliged to provide a quote for every point we make from a source, but we still must consistently and faithfully acknowledge the source if we are expressing its ideas in our own words (as highlighted below in bold):

According to Barbara Frey Waxman in her article “Victor Frankenstein’s Romantic Fate: The Tragedy of the Promethean Overreacher as Woman” for Papers on Language and Literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (sub-titled The Modern Prometheus) offers us a Promethean-creator whose creative pursuit is strikingly female in its attributes as well as transgressive. In Waxman’s view, Shelley’s Frankenstein is almost bisexual in the way he crosses back and forth between gender distinctions, drawing on the same paradoxes of human creation as a mother might (14-15). Like a woman, Frankenstein has the power to both destroy and give life. Emotionally, he has the capacity to cherish what he creates—and to despise it (16). According to Waxman, Shelley’s Promethean Frankenstein is a tragic figure. His going back-and-forth between male and female, between creator god and human being, violates a cosmic order and calls down reprisals: “He has seen beyond himself as a man and as a human being, experiencing an epiphanic, Godlike, womanly insight into motherhood by dissolving the barriers between male and female, love and hate, and life and death. No human being can endure long after such apocalyptic unifying moments—at least in a Romantic context—and death is a fitting tragic end for him” (26). HERE FOLLOWS YOUR OWN POINT: For Golding the Promethean point is that the universe has a human shape and what we find in it represents an unfolding revelation of what it means to be human. Golding acknowledges that Promethean creation is implicitly a kind of theft. But for Golding the Prometheus-as-Word fulfills heaven’s providence rather than violating it. For the 19th century romantics, we pay a heavy price for following in the footsteps of Prometheus. The Frankenstein story implies that when we create in our own image, we become cosmic outlaws.

The seventh paragraph should offer a clearly demonstrated argument (quoting here is optional). An argument is not simply the student’s opinion or position: it advances reasons and examples in the student’s own words. It is an opportunity to explore the implications of the material noted earlier in the essay. 

For the BLUE BOOK Final Exam, students will write a seven-paragraph Blue Book essay concerning one of the sonnets in Vendler’s The Art of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. The format is the same as the seven-paragraph model already described.

  • Students ought to have their textbook and outside source highlighted/tabbed/flagged and ready to go.
  • Provide space on the first page of the Blue Book to write the first paragraph LAST.
  • The Block Quote may be pre-entered.
  • Students may have a bullet point outline on the inside Blue Book covers.
Grading Standards

Each essay is worth 25 percent of the semester grade (including the Final Blue Book). The four grades are averaged together for the semester grade.  CREATIVITY: Students are encouraged to bring to bear original thoughts and insights, and illustrate a given point in way that captures the reader’s imagination.

Final Exam 05/10/2012
Submission Format Policy

All writing must be typed (12 point Times New Roman), double-spaced, with a header for the student’s last name (in the default .5 setting in upper right corner), page numbers inserted (upper right, .5 setting), and MLA format for quote and Works Cited. Formal essays must be hole-punched: the left margin should be set at one and a quarter inch; the top, right, and bottom at one inch. Student name, instructor name, course, and date should be in the upper left, double-spaced. Students must submit, and retain, all their typed hole-punched essays in the clasps (i.e., “brads”) of the same folder in the order that they were assigned and written. The work that needs to be graded is always the last item in the brads. Students must submit their own folder in person (from their hands into the instructor’s hands).

 Always submit assignments IN PERSON

Students must submit their work in person (from their hands into the instructor’s hands). Submission for a due-date is never by e-mail attachment or under the office door, or left on a desk, or by surrogate (classmate, relative, etc). Late work also must be submitted in person. Work submitted apart from the guidelines of this syllabus will not be evaluated and must be resubmitted and penalized for lateness.


Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.
Late Paper Policy

Essays submitted after the class period of their scheduled due date are considered late by one period and penalized 10 points. If submitted after the next class period, the essay is now late by two class periods and penalized 20 points. If students are too ill to submit their work personally, they may submit it when they return to class. They may avoid penalty for late submission by obtaining signed documentation from their doctor or the Vinson Infirmary, or some relevant professional in a timely fashion. Absence for the sake of others requires similar documentation. No late work is accepted after the last class period before the Final Exam.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

Roll is taken right away as soon as class begins. The instructor is not obliged to count people present who arrive late. A student with three unexcused absences receives a warning from the instructor. As of the fourth unexcused absence, the instructor reserves the right to notify the Dean of Students and to initiate removal of the student from the course (including the possibility of a WF). PLEASE E-MAIL (OR LEAVE PHONE MESSAGE WITH) THE INSTRUCTOR REGARDING MISSED CLASS PERIODS. Make the SAFE decision regarding emergency conditions of roads this winter. Snow and ice are excused absences for commuters even if the university is slow to declare the campus closed. Make the prudent decision regarding family members and family emergencies—contact the Dean of Students and ask for a message to be sent to your instructors. Documentation from Vinson or doctor may FOLLOW an illness (yours or your family member).

Other Policies

Avoiding language too close to the documented source

Language too close to the student’s own documented sources: In our course, restating language word for word from the student’s own documented sources (i.e., sources properly cited in the Works Cited) without using quotation marks or setting it off as a Block Quote puts an essay at risk of serious penalty in regard to the grade, even if the student provides a parenthetical page at the end of a sentence or otherwise alludes to the documented source. Even if students change some of the words of their documented source, the phrasing is still NOT considered their own.

 Students should indeed give credit to the documented source and provide page numbers in parentheses even if not quoting the source directly. But students must express a point-of-fact from their documented source in their own words.  If students also value the way a documented source has phrased the idea, then they must present that phrasing as a direct quote (again, with quotation marks or set off ten spaces on the left if of considerable length). NOTE: In your required seven-paragraph essays, you are NOT using Block Quotes from secondary sources—only a shorter quote with quotation marks (up to four lines of your typing).

The Serious Problem of Undocumented Sources

ACADEMIC DISHONESTY & Non-Documented Sources: Students who use information and/or phrasing from sources that are not cited either in the body of the essay or in the Works Cited bibliography will be considered guilty of academic dishonesty and will receive a failing grade of 0 (no points) for the assignment even if the rest of the essay is original and the other sources are properly cited and documented. The student in this case MUST withdraw from the course and the grade will be whatever points the student has accumulated prior to the plagiarized assignment. If the student continues to attend, the instructor will remove the student with a WF. Use of undocumented sources is an infraction of the university’s policy on academic dishonesty and must be reported to the Dean of Students.


The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, 397-4140.

 Student Input

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor’s expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Classroom Decorum

No facsimile smoking (e-cigarettes). No chew tobacco. Students must have their book (the required text) open and following with the class. Students must refrain from using electronic devices. Students may take important calls outside the classroom.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at