A Syllabus for English 203.002 and 003, Spring 2002

Troy, Arthur, and the Stage-Play World
Lecturer: Dr. Ellen Moody

The semester begins January 22nd; the last day of classes is May 6th.
Section 203.003, meets Thursday evenings, 7:20 - 10:00 pm, Robinson Hall A248
Section 203.002, meets Monday evenings, 7:20 - 10:00 pm, Robinson Hall A125
For the 203.003 Thursday group: the Final Journal-Essay is due, and the Final Essay-Exam will occur, on May 9th;
For the 203.002 Monday group: the Final Journal-Essay is due, and the Final Essay-Exam will occur, on May 13th
My preferred e-mail address is: Ellen2@JimandEllen.org,.
My website address is: http://mason.gmu.edu/~emoody
You can also reach me at emoody@osf1.gmu.edu

Description of Course

The online catalogue of the GMU English Department describes English 203 and 204, as courses in which students will study "great works of Western civilization." English 203 is conceived of as "the first half" of an enormous survey course, one whose goal is to study important writers from the ancient Greek and Roman world, European medieval society, and the European Renaissance. For the latter we are to cover works written between the later fourteenth and early sixteenth centuries when a new radical outlook towards politics, the natural world and liberty for the individual began to emerge in the arts, one which is an important element in class, religious, political, and ethnic conflicts which have dominated thought and experience in Western society since the end of the eighteenth century.

In this particular class we will study a group of authors whose works enable us to survey this period through an overarching theme which focuses on a significant change. For much of our period, literature was not treated as the product of an individual mind. Unlike in modern Western societies today, authors were not asked to invent new or original stories. People did not see society as susceptible to radical change; cultural values and religions were not treated as relative and open to question; and an individual's "character: was not understood to be partly the result of inculculated habits and of the particular circumstances in which a child-, and young adulthood are passed.

The Greek and Roman world and medieval Europe expected their poets to re-order mythic material in ways that would explore and effectively dramatize in an ultimately cathartic or uplifting fashion aspects of human nature regarded as eternal. They expected to see the myths of their era re-enacted before them: their texts dramatized, pictured, or were sung and read aloud in ways that could give an audience new insight into these myths by elaborating upon them in intriguingly perceptive ways. In medieval Europe, these myths were seen as large bodies of connected stories called matters. We will read "the matter of Troy", first fully articulated in readable texts still extant today by Homer; we will also read "the matter of Arthur," first fully articulated as romance rather than history or myth in the verse narratives of Chrétien de Troyes. In the Renaissance art forms begin centrally to reflect a dominating interest in the real historical past and present, a clearer and non-religious idea of probability, and the perception that individual works spring from an individual psychology and are intended to have an psychological effect on an audience. We will read two radical political tracts, an astonishing frank autobiographical sequence of poems, and an original play from this era.

Our main texts (Euripides's tragedies, Virgil Aeneid, Chrétien de Troyes's Arthurian romances, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Bédier's The Romance of Tristan & Iseult, Gaspara Stampa's sonnet sequence, Thomas More's Utopia, Machiavelli's The Prince and William Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale) and two accompanying films (John Boorman's film adaptation of the Arthurian legends, Excalibur and Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons) exemplify the slow shift in public perception and private understanding of the origin and role of imaginative work in Western society between the ancient classic world and Europe around the time of the French revolution which I have just outlined. Three short poems, two from the late 19th century, Matthew Arnold's "Tristan and Iseult" and Alfred Tennyson's "The Passing of Arthur", and one from the 20th, Sara Teasdale's "Guenevere, and a short film, Robert Bresson's Lancelot du Lac will enable us to see some modern responses to mythic material.

Required Books and Etexts (in the order we will read them)

Required and Recommended Films

Recommended Books

Suggested Further Reading and Source Material: A Brief Bibliography


In this class you will be asked to read and to demonstrate you have read all the assigned texts and to see and demonstrate you have seen both assigned films -- as well as thought about them -- by 1) writing three journal essays at home; 2) giving one short talk or presentation to the class; and 3) passing an open-book exam.

Three Journal-Essays

You are asked to write three journal-essays outside class.

For the first you must choose between writing about two or three of the seven plays by Euripides which we read in class; or about a single aspect of Books 1 - 4, 6 - 9 and 12 of Virgil's Aeneid; or about one or more of the seven plays and Books 1 - 4, 6 - 9 and 12 of Virgil's Aeneid.

For the second you must choose between writing about two of the four romances by Chrétien de Troyes which we read in class; or one of Chrétien's romances and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; or one of Chrétien's romances and Bédier's The Romance of Tristan & Iseult. You can bring in as part of your discussion any of the three etext poems by Arnold, Teasdale or Tennyson.

For the third you must choose between writing about the poetry of Gaspara Stampa; or about Thomas More's Utopia and Machavelli's The Prince; or Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons and Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale.

These are our "set journals" and are to be numbered (1, 2, and 3). What is a journal-essay? See attachment entitled An Essay with Guidelines and student models. You are required to adhere to the guideliness strictly, e.g., your plot summary must not be more than 1 paragraph; your analysis of text must be 2-3 pages. See student models. The aim of this exercise in pre-structured self-conscious process writing is to help you learn to read better and to write analytically about what you read.

Due dates for the set journal-essays: you are asked to hand your work in on the day specified in the calendar; if a journal or the story is a session late, I will take down the grade an element for every sessions it is late (a B+ becomes a B, then a B- and so on).

You can revise the journals if you like. If your grade for the second version is higher than the your grade for the first, I average the two grades together to form a single grade for the particular journal-essay. If your grade on the second version is the same or lower, I ignore it. You can also write "extra credit" journals on authors you have not yet written about. If you chose to write on Euripides' plays for Journal-Essay #1, you may write an "extra credit" journal on Virgil's Aeneid (or vice versa); if you chose to write on two of Chrétien's romances for Journal-Essay #2, you may write an "extra credit" journal on another of Chrétien's romances with either Sir Gawain and the Green Knight or Bédier's The Romance of Tristan and Iseult; if you chose to write on Gaspara Stampa's poetry for Journal-Essay #3, you may write an "extra credit" journal on either More's Utopia and Machiavelli's The Prince or Bolt's A Man for All Seasons and Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale. You may also write an "extra credit" journal on the three etext Arthurian poems (by Arnold, Teasdale and Tennyson) or Boorman's Excalibur and Bresson's Lancelot du Lac.

One Five to Seven Minute Short Talk

You are asked to give a 5-7 minute talk on a text that will be assigned to you in class. The talks will begin the third meeting of the semester. The idea is to practice inventing a clear thesis- statement which is supported by concrete details from a text or your own experience.

One of the aims of this course is to guide students into learning how to talk as well as how to write about texts in an educated way. To do a talk brings home two important truths about writing. To quote John Trimble, the "success of a communication depends solely on how the reader receives it", and thinking clearly with the ordinary language of everyday life is the basis of a readable essay. To do well in middle class occupations outside the classroom demands that you learn how to present yourself and your point of view attractively. By asking everyone to do a short talk we can learn from one another ways of presenting the self in a poised manner that can gain respect and charm. The whole class will listen and try to respond. The ensuing dialogue and the student's own later thoughts about either what happened may teach everyone something about communication skills.

To have everyone talk on a different short piece will also make the course more enjoyable and de-center the classroom. We will get all our many points of view and become something like friends. Each student is responsible to do his or her talk on the day assigned; it is to be taken seriously as an individual project. The class is turned over to the student and he or she is "on".

I have provided a model talk by a student on Chrétien for each student to use.

An Open-Book Final Exam

There will be an exam on all the assigned texts and films on the day and during in the time set aside as our final exam period. The exam will consist of a choice of two out of four possible essays. There will also be ten short answer questions. You will be allowed to bring your books, classnotes, and any notes you have made while reading over the term.

Class Meetings

1) I ask that you attend class faithfully, read what is required in the books, and see the movies. For most students, the less frequently they attend, the less they learn.

2) I hope that you participate in class. To do this, you have to have read most of the text due to be read for a given meeting. Our class is large, we meet infrequently, and the important history behind these texts is unfamiliar so I will have to use some of the time to offer historical background and traditional lectures. However, I hope we will have good class discussions after each student gives a talk.

The Problem of Plagiarism

In this course several of our texts are so commonly assigned in college courses that there are Cliff and Monarch Notes available and many printed essays on these texts; there are also sites on the Internet where you may copy or buy ready-made essays. To copy and to hand in as your own work any of such texts in whole or part is plagiarism. If I suspect anyone of, or catch anyone at, plagiarising, I will follow the guidelines of the English department which require that I fail such a student and report him or her to the Chair of my Department:

'"Plagiarism means using words, opinions, or factual information from another person without giving that person credit. Writers give credit through accepted documentation styles, such as parenthetical citation, footnotes, or end notes; a simple listing of books and articles consulted is not sufficient. Plagiarism is the equivalent of intellectual robbery and cannot be tolerated in an academic setting."

My view is such behavior makes a mockery of the goals of this course.


Your grade will reflect the work you have done over the course of the whole semester. By the end of this time I should have for each student a minimum of five grades, one for each of three journals, one for a short talk, and one for the final exam. These grades will be averaged together to form one final grade. If a student has done extra credit journals, he or she will have more grades to be averaged in. I then take into account your participation in class; if you came for help if you needed it; and those journals which showed that you cared, that you really thought about your subject and made an effort to find something out about, explore, and something intelligent, coherent, and complete. I recognize the value of, respect, and reward hard work when I see it.

How to Contact Me Outside Class

Without an Appointment

Write to me by e-mail: Ellen2@JimandEllen.org; you can write me 24 hours a day; I look at my mail at least twice a day, and I write back. Be sure to type the e-mail address to which you wish me to send my reply at the end of your message.
You can call the phone in the office I use (993-1176) or the English office (993-1160) or leave a message in my box in the English Office, which is in Robinson Hall on the fourth floor. I have no voice mail, and there is no way you can fax me. It is also well to remember that I am on campus only 2 afternoons and evenings each week. The secretaries don't call me; they simply place put a note in my box. Further, leaving essays in my box is a chancy business because materials get lost this way. No-one stands guard over the boxes. Give it to the secretary, watch him or her date and put it in the correct box, and then leave. The safest speediest way to get an essay to me is to bring it to class on time and give it to me warm hand to warm hand. Make a second hard-copy of everything you write. It's worth the money.

With an Appointment

Individual conferences to go over journals, and discuss reading or individual problems are available by appointment on Mondays and Thursdays beween 5:30 and 7:10 pm in Robinson Hall A455. Sign up on the stenography pad which will be placed on the corner of my desk every time the class meets. I encourage everyone to come and work with me on their essays individually.

Other Help Outside Class

The College of Arts and Sciences runs a University Writing Center where you will find tutors to help you with writing. Their phone number is 703-993-1200. Here is a description of the place and its services:

"The George Mason University Writing Center is a writing resource open to the entire university community, offering free tutoring in a comfortable, supportive atmosphere. During face-to-face and online sessions, trained graduate and undergraduate tutors form a variety of disciplines assist writers at all stage of the writing process. Tutors emphasize positive attitudes and stratgies that help writers at any level learn to evaluate and revise their work in order to be more confident and effective writers."

To find out more and to start to use the services offered, go to http://writingcenter.gmu.edu and http://writingcenter.gmu.edu/resources/index.html/


Meeting 1: Thursday and Monday, January 24th and 28th

In Class: Course introduction: Give out short talks. How to write an essay with guidelines; how to do short talks; lecture on Greek tragedy, tragedians, Euripides and first half-hour of BBC production of Sophocles's Antigone screened.

Outside Class: for 2nd meeting read over syllabus, Directed Journal-Essay guidelines, and Student Models on the Net. Bring any and all questions you might have. Read Euripides' The Bacchae and Alcestis; and Books I - 2 of The Aeneid. Also, if you have Feder's Handbook of Classical Literature, read the entries for "Tragedy," "Euripides," "Alcestis," "Bacchae," "Epic," "Homer," "Virgil," and begin entry "The Aeneid." Browse all the books and pick three choices for a short talk of which you will do one; the short talks begin on the 3rd meeting.

Meeting 2: Thursday and Monday, January 31st and February 4th

In Class: Give out short talks; continue Euripides; discuss Epic and Virgil. Specific works covered: Alcestis, The Bacchae, and Book 1 of The Aeneid.

Outside class: for 3rd meeting read Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis, Trojan Woman, and Books 3 - 4 of the Aeneid Read relevant entries in Feder's Handbook.

Meeting 3: Thursday and Monday, February 7th and 11th

In Class: Short Talk 1: Euripides' Iphigenia at Aulis; Short Talk 2: Virgil's Aeneid : Book 2: How they took the city; Short Talk 3: Euripides' Trojan Women

Outside Class: for 4th meeting read Euripides' Electra and Books 6 - 7 of The Aeneid. Read relevant entries in Feder's Handbook.

Meeting 4: Thursday and Monday, February 14th and 18th

In Class: Short Talk 4: Virgil's Aeneid, Book 4: The Passion of the Queen; Short Talk 5: Virgil's Aeneid, Book 6: The World Below; Short Talk 6: Euripides' Electra.

Outside Class: for 5th meeting read Euripides' Hippolytus and Medea and Books 8 - 9 of The Aeneid. Read relevant entries in Feder's Handbook. Write and bring to class an outline for Journal-Essay #1.

Meeting 5: Thursday and Monday, February 21st and 25th

In Class: OUTLINE FOR #1 DUE. Short Talk 7: Euripides' Hippolytus; Short Talk 8: Euripides' Medea; Short Talk 9: Virgil's Aeneid, Book 9: A Night Sortie, A Day Assault.

Outside Class: If I receive any outlines that propose unacceptable topics I will email the students concerned. For sixth meeting read Book 12 of The Aeneid and Euripides' Ion; begin work on Journal-Essay #1. If you have Lacy, Ashe and Mancoff's Arthurian Handbook, read Chapters 1, 2 (pp. 57 - 103, "Early Arthurian" through "German Tristan Romances").

Meeting 6: Thursday and Monday, February 28th and March 4th

In Class: OUTLINE FOR #1 RETURNED Short Talk 10: Virgil's Aeneid, Book 12: The Fortunes of War; Short Talk 11: Euripides' Ion; Short Talk 12: Euripides's Bacchae. Introduction of Arthurian myth. Lecture on medieval world.

Outside Class: For 7th meeting, write final version of Journal-Essay #1. There are various versions (drafts, parts of the shooting script) of the screenplay of Excalibur which you could browse as they are online at: http://dandalf.com/dandalf/ExcaliburScript.html, http://www.hundland.com/scripts/Excalibur.htm, and http://excalibur.simplenet.com/dandalf/ExcaliburScript1.html. If you have Arthurian Handbook, read "Arthur in the Arts", read Chapter 4 (pp. 257 - 267 ("Musicals" through "Film").

Meeting 7: Thursday and Monday, March 7th and 18th

Note: Spring Break occurs AFTER the Thursday group's 7th meeting and BEFORE the Monday group's 7th meeting. Midterm grades for freshman and sophomore students are due in eight weeks from the first day of the semester or March 19th.

In Class: JOURNAL ESSAY #1 DUE. We will watch Boorman's film adaptation, Excalibur.

Outside class: for 8th meeting, read William Kibler and Carleton W. Carroll's "Introduction" to their translation of Chrétien de Troyes's Arthurian Romances, and Chrétien's Erec and Enide and The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot), and The Knight with the Lion (Ivain).

Meeting 8: Thursday and Monday, March 21st and 25th

In Class: Return and Discussion of Journal-Essay #1. Short Talk 13: John Boorman's Excalibur; Short Talk 14: Chrétien's Erec and Enide; Short Talk 15: Chrétien's The Knight of the Cart (Lancelot). If time permits, we'll see the first half of Bresson's Lancelot du Lac

Outside class: for 9th meeting, read Chrétien's The Knight with the Lion (Ivain); The Story of the Grail (Perceval), pp. 381 - 449, 457 - 461, lines 1 - 4727, 6233 - 6553 (that is, read only the story of Perceval, do not read the secondary story of Gawain in this tale); Brian Stone's Introduction to his translation and the whole of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and in Arthurian Handbook, Chapter 2 ("English Arthurian Literature", pp. 121- 135).

Meeting 9: Thursday and Monday, March 28th and April 1st

In Class: Short Talk 16: Chrétien's The Knight with the Lion (Ivain); Short Talk 17: Chrétien's The Story of the Grail (Perceval) only the first half and a few pages in the latter part, the story Perceval, not the story of Gawain, pp. 381 - 449, 457 - 461, lines 1 - 4727, 6233 - 6553); Short Talk 18: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. If time permits we'll see the second half of Bresson's Lancelot du Lac.

Outside Class: for 10th meeting read Joseph Bédier's The Romance of Tristan and Iseult, Matthew Arnold's "Tristam and Iseult", Sara Teasdale's "Guenevere", and Alfred Tennyson;s "The Passing of Arthur." If you did not watch Lancelot du Lac with the class, see it on your own.

Meeting 10: Thursday and Monday, April 4th and 8th

In Class: OUTLINE FOR #2 DUE. Short Talk 19: Joseph Bédier's The Romance of Tristan and Iseut; Short Talk 20: Three Poems: Matthew Arnold's "Tristram and Iseult", Sara Teasdale's "Guenevere" and Alfred Tennyson's "The Passing of Arthur": The Aftermath; Short Talk 21: Robert de Bresson's Lancelot of the Lake.

Outside Class: If I receive any outlines that propose unacceptable topics I will email the students concerned.. For 11th meeting, write Journal-Essay #2. Read Robert Bolt's play, A Man for All Seasons; if you have Julia Briggs's This Stage-Play World, read Chapters 1 - 3.

Meeting 11: Thursday and Monday, April 11th and 15th

In Class: JOURNAL ESSAY #2 DUE. We will watch Fred Zinnemann's A Man for All Seasons.

Outside class: for 12th meeting, read Turner's "Introduction" to his translation and More's Utopia, Books 1 and 2, and This Stage-Play World, Chapters 4 - 6.

Meeting 12: Thursday and Monday, April 18th and 22nd

In Class: Return and discussion of Journal-Essay #2. Short Talk 22: Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons; Short Talk 23: Thomas More's Utopia, Book I; Short Talk 24: Thomas More's Utopia, Book II. A Lecture on the Renaissance.

Outside Class: for 13th meeting, read Donno's "Introduction to his translation and Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince and Laura Anna Stortoni's "Introduction" to her translation of a selection of Gaspara Stampa's poetry, all the poems and The Stage-Play World, Chapters 7 - 9 .

Meeting 13: Thursday and Monday, April 25th and 29th.

In Class: Short Talk 25: Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince; Short Talk 26: The Poetry of Gaspara Stampa. I'll go over More, Machiavelli, Stampa and Julia Brigg's book.

Outside Class: for 14th and last meeting read Barnet's Prefatory Remarks and Kermode's "Introduction to as well as William Shakespeare's A Winter's Tale

Meeting 14: Thursday and Monday, May 2nd and 6th

In Class: OUTLINE FOR #3 DUE. Short Talk: Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale.

Outside class: If I receive any outlines that propose unacceptable topics I will email the students concerned. For Final Exam Period, prepare for final and write Journal-Essay #3; also write any extra credit, large or compensatory journal-essays.

Final Exam, Meeting 15: Thursday and Monday, May 9th and 13th

The Final Exam begins at 7:30 and lasts until 10:15. JOURNAL-ESSAY #3 IS DUE.

Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated 12 January 2001.