Welcome to Humanities 214: The Medieval and Renaissance Worlds.
I am indebted to Mary Ellen Weimer, whose book, Learning Centered Teaching, (San Francisco: Joosey Bass, 2002) introduced me to this concept of choice in a curriculum. Much of what appears below is taken verbatim from her appendix. We are therefore all explorers in this endeavor to make ourselves more aware not only of what we are learning but how we best come to know. You will find the total possible points here in the Creating your Course Encounter outline.
The course texts are Vols. 2-4 in The Humanistic Experience, 4th Ed. by Gloria Fiero, The Asheville Reader, The Medieval and Renaissance World, 2nd. Ed., ed. Ho, McClain, Sawin, and Spellman, Othello, by William Shakespeare and Sundiata (Niane ed.). Reading assignments should be done before the lecture on Monday. Please bring relevant texts with you to class. We often consider texts in class and it is problematic to have several people hunched over a single copy.
In this course, assignments are handled differently: you select what work you complete, with three exceptions:
1) all students will create a portfolio of written, edited, typed work and
2) all students will pass the final exam
3) all students are accountable for adhering to the participation and attendance policy
Review the following options bearing these rules in mind:
1. At least 50 percent of the total points possible must be earned; other wise no points will be recorded.
2. Once the due date for an assignment has passed, that assignment cannot be completed even for partial credit.
First, we will consider the three required elements then move to the choices you have for controlling your own learning.
All of the Humanities courses involve formative writing. To demonstrate that your writing is improving over the semester you are expected to submit a first draft and a revision of 20 pages of writing. In our class you will have some flexibility in choosing your writing assignments but as you make those choices, bear in mind the 20-page minimum. Your research paper may not exceed 10 pages. Choices you will have in writing will be cultural event reviews, reading responses, audio-lecture responses, learning log entries, essays written for exams, book group reflections, contemporary connections, and preparations for presentations made to the class. For more details on this requirement click "Your Portfolio" above.
The Final Exam
All students will take the final exam. Regardless of the total points you have earned, you must still take and pass the final exam achieving at least 60% of the total points. The exam will include identification, matching, short answer and a longer essay.
Now, on to the Options you have in creating your own learning!
Yes, the exams are optional. They are but one way to achieve the points you need in this course.
1. Sectional Test 1 -- A test involving matching, short identification and two short essays. 50 points
2. Sectional Test 2 -- A test involving matching, short identification and a take -home essay. 50 points
3. All students must pass the Final exam
In a course as diverse as ours, research is an important way for each student to engage more deeply with a topic of personal interest. Research can take many forms, including the standard paper, physical experiment, fieldwork, review of literature, and creative project. During the course of our semester, you may choose an area of interest and conduct research that contributes meaningfully and originally to the field of Humanities. Each of these research options has a set of criteria particular to its nature. Please consult the web page to view the evaluative rubrics for each.
The Research Paper (75 points)
This is a form with which most are familiar. You will pose an original question—one that has not been answered because it has yet to be asked—and you’ll research the answer to that question presenting your discoveries and conclusions in a 8-10 content-page paper, complete with citations and bibliography. The paper will be peer-reviewed and will be submitted in first-draft and final edited forms. Your paper will be presented in class and will be published on my website. Class time will be devoted to introducing the Peer Review process but students will need to make time to meet with their reviewer outside of class.
The Creative Project (75 points)
Much of what we “know” about the people we are studying we glean from the arts they produced. The production of these arts was often a meditation in itself. To replicate an illuminated manuscript is to do a kind of experiential research into the medieval mindset. To create a stained glass window requires research into materials, process, tools, and focus of the medieval artisan. In choosing this option, you agree to use the process as your research. You need not be—in fact it’s better if you are not—already an accomplished trade’s man. Your project will have the following components: research into methods and materials placing your investigation in time and culture, photo-documentation of your process, journal entries (five minimum) drawing connections and documenting insights, and a final work of art (a painting, a book, a dance, a collection of poetry, a piece of music) that bears your mark.
I have chosen four options of contemporary texts that have relevance to our course. Each text addresses a particular field of inquiry. The texts are:
Collapse, by Jared Diamond
Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn
The World is Flat, by Thomas Friedman
The goals of this option are 1) To deepen one’s ability to use a text as a springboard to meaningful discussion, 2) to discover influences and similarities between the Med/Ren periods and our own and reflect on how those influences are still felt and why those similarities exist, 3) to create a discussion guide. Students will present the fruits of their discussion and main points to the class.
Those choosing to participate in a book group must make that commitment within the first two weeks of the semester and agree to meet weekly with the group. A group may be as small as two or as large as six.
Historical Fiction Project (75 points)
Historical fiction takes the reader into history in a wonderfully sensuous, psychological, interior way. Each author takes liberties--sometimes even with the facts--but to what end? In choosing this project, one will focus on a single personality and read a minimum of three books in which this person is featured. In your paper's discussion of the books you will be expected to point out and evaluate liberties the author has taken with history, reflect on what sense of the period these authors were uniquely able to to create for you as a reader, and discuss the significance of this person in this period and in our own period. Finally, you will write a cover letter to this person placing the value of his/her life in context for them today.
Contemporary Connections (15 points)
In this opinion 2-3 page opinion paper you will write reflectively on the commonalities you see between some news item and some aspect of the history we are studying. For instance, Ave Maria University in Naples Florida was in the news recently. It's a strict Catholic university bank-rolled by Monaghan, the Dominos Pizza founder. What are the issues facing this fledgling university? How are relations with the community? What rights and expectations do the students have? What is the school's philosophy? These are questions that bear comparison as we consider the first universities. Your reflections will be informed by our course readings and lectures (to which you will refer) and will also make reference to at least one other source you have consulted in forming your opinion. (20 points)
Cultural Event Reviews (10 points)
You will focus on a review of the culture through the lens of this event. There are two guidelines to choose from in making this cultural review. Of course, the goal of this writing in the context of our course is to also make some connections to our content. You may choose to do a critical review or you may choose to use the event to analyze the culture you observed in attendance by considering how the aesthetics of the event support and promote that culture. 2-3 pages
Group Presentations (50 points)
You and no more than three others will form a group studying some aspect of interest in our study. Circumcision in women in Arab societies, Heraldry and Crest painting, chant then and now, animism and shape-shifting, etc. You will meet as a group once to discuss your curiosities about the subject and assign individual investigations, meet a second time to share the fruits of your research, meet a third time to decide how best to present your material to the class and make your presentation not exceeding fifteen minutes, then conduct discussion after your presentation. This assignment also includes a 2-page typed paper analyzing what happened in the group in terms of 1) what the group did/didn't do that contributed to its success or lack thereof and 2) what you personally would do differently next time to ensure a more valuable learning experience. This paper is worth 15 additional points and must be completed to receive the presentation points.
Field Events (20 points)
You are invited to join the class in visiting the Basilica of St. Lawrence. This will be a trip taken during class time and a guideline for reviewing your visit is furnished here. You are also encouraged to visit other spiritual centers. particularly if the tradition is unfamiliar to you. A 3-page review of your experience solidly grounding your writing in research that has helped you to understand points of confusion or curiosity about the architecture, music, art or practices you observed will be submitted with bibliography. (20 points)
Reading Response (15 points)
This assignment involves reading and responding to the week's selections so that you are familiar with the material before the week's lecture. it's good practice to do your reading in advance of the lecture regardless of whether you choose to compose your thoughts weekly or just familiarize yourself with the ideas. Writing up your response will give you a firm grounding for the week's focus.
Learning Log (10 points each)
This assignment encourages students to explore the process of encountering the Humanities in general and this course in specific. Typed entries will be about a page long. Collections of entries are due on the date specified on the course calendar. You may prepare one, all, or some of the entries. Once the due date is past, those entries may not be submitted. Entries are graded using the following criteria: 1) their completeness (meaning every question is addressed), 2) the level of insight and reflection (evidence of thoughtful responses), 3) the support provided for the observation and conclusions and 4) the extent to which relevant course content is integrated into the entry. (10 points per entry)
Participation (50 points)
To participate meaningfully in the course you will need to arrive with necessary texts, having prepared your readings, and show generous interest in the subject matter and your peer's response to the subject matter. It should go without saying that arriving late or using a cell phone would be considered exceedingly rude. It should go without saying but apparently this needs to be said. To participate one must be present. Absences beyond three will necessarily impair your ability to make the kinds of connections you need to grasp the content of the course. Your participation grade will suffer. If you are concerned about your progress or participation you need to communicate those concerns so that together we can find a good solution.