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Medieval and Modern Literature

ENG 301/302 (Not currently offered)

Medieval and Modern Literature
(Not currently offered)

  • Course ID:ENG 301/302
  • Semesters:2
  • Department:English
  • Course Rank:Required
  • Teachers:Chris Breslin

Description and Objectives

This class will focus on continuing to develop college-bound students’ ability to read closely and understand challenging literature, and to write about it with critical acumen and style. The class will require each student to conduct research and to complete a ten-page term paper to prove that he is ready to perform this academic requirement in college.

The course will begin with an introduction to literary genres and elements of those genres, focusing initially on a short story by author Mark Helprin. We will transition rapidly to a detailed reading of Herman Melville’s classic Moby-Dick. The course will then “head north” to 11th century Iceland for an exploration of Njal’s Saga, the most well-known and influential example of the Icelandic saga—a truly unique epic of medieval literature—which will be enhanced by the reading of key sections of The Poetic Edda and The Heliand—both of which will give insight into that period in northern European history when the Germanic peoples converted from the worship of Odin, Thor, and the other gods of Norse mythology to the embrace of Jesus Christ and His Church. We will read many and varied poems, including Dante Alighieri’s Inferno before transitioning to our study of drama, with the reading of R.C. Sheriff’s WW I play Journey’s End, John Milton’s Samson Agonistes and William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Students will write essays on the various works being read and will also be working on a ten-page term paper during the second semester.


  • Moby-Dick (0-14-243724-7),
  • The Poetic Edda (978-0-19-953838-6),
  • The Heliand: the Saxon Gospel (978-019-507376-8),
  • Njal’s Saga (0-14-044769-5)
  • Inferno (0-345-4837-X),
  • Journey’s End (978-0-141-183268),
  • Samson Agonistes,
  • King Lear (0-451-52693-7),
  • The Pacific and other Stories(0-14-303576-2),

Course Requirements

Quarter grades for the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Quarters will be determined by the following formula:

Quizzes (30%) + Tests/essays/in-class writing (70%) = Quarter Grade

The 4th Quarter grade will be determined by the following formula:

Quizzes (20%) + Tests/essays/in-class writing (40%) + Term Paper (40%) = Quarter Grade

The term paper will also stand in place of the 2nd Semester final exam (12.5% of final grade).

Students can expect to be quizzed at least once weekly on the assigned reading material. Although all quizzes will be announced (no pop quizzes), past experience indicates that cursory, last-minute attempts to complete assigned reading, or to replace actual text reading with Cliff Notes-type supplements, invariably will result in a poor quiz average. Students can expect a test-level, in-class writing assignment at least quarterly, as well a several tests and out-of-class essays each quarter

Successful Students

Students are encouraged to seek help early and often if academic difficulty is encountered.

Students are encouraged to read with a colored pen or highlighter in-hand so that pertinent passages or puzzling lines can be marked for discussion in class.

Students are enjoined not to discuss quizzes and tests that they have taken until they have been returned graded. To do otherwise constitutes a breach of academic integrity. For example, Student X takes a quiz 4th period. Later, at lunch, he reveals the contents of the quiz to Student Z, who has class 6th period. Both the provider of illicit test knowledge and the receiver are both cheating in this case. If caught, the school’s policy on this matter, found on page 20 of the current Heights Student Handbook and Directory, will be enforced.

Students who miss a scheduled quiz or test due to illness, an athletic event, or for any other reason will be expected to make-up that quiz or test on the day of their return to class. Students who take graded events after the scheduled date will not receive any possible curve-points or be allowed access to extra credit points for that quiz or test.

All homework is due at the beginning of class. Late work will be penalized one letter grade down for each day that the assignment is late. Do not ask to leave class to print-out a paper in the library. Plan ahead. If you anticipate a conflict or a have a problem that will influence your timeliness, talk to me ahead of time.

All juniors are expected to participate in the Junior Trip during the week 28-31 May 2019. Mr. Dan Lively is the project leader for this trip, but you may direct any questions about it my way until he addresses it with you as a class. In years past, the trip included the following events:

  1. Canoe 17 miles down the Monocacy River (1 set of Class 3 rapids, one minor ripple)
  2. Run, walk or crawl up and down Sugarloaf Mountain.
  3. Bicycle 57 miles on the back roads of Southern Maryland
  4. Swim a half-mile in open water out to Saint Clement’s Island.
  5. Sleep on the ground and eat steak, seafood and succulent pork barbecue.

Each class will begin with prayer and be followed by a quick check of student grooming. For the hirsute amongst you who have not managed to shave by the time class begins, rusty razors and vintage shaving cream may be rented for $1 per use. Water, a basin and a hand-mirror are provided at no extra charge. Unless otherwise indicated, jackets may be removed without requesting permission once the word to “take-seats” has been given.