ENGL 459: Modern Arthurian Literature

Winter, 2008 Dr. Debora B. Schwartz 
Class meetings: MW 12-2 PM, Rm. 34-227 http://www.calpoly.edu/~dschwart
Office: 47-35G, tel. 756-2636  Main English Office:  756-2597
Office Hours: M 2:30-4:00, T 2:10-3:00, W 10:30-11:30, R 2:10-3:30, and by appt. e-mail: dschwart@calpoly.edu

Calendar of Assignments

PLEASE NOTE that the on-line syllabus (not any print-out you may make) is authoritative.  Assignments may be modified in the course of the quarter.  Check the on-line syllabus regularly (before each class) to ensure that you are completing the correct assignment.

Oral Presentation Schedule

Dr. Schwartz's Guide to Research Tools

Guided Research Exercises:

Site Navigation

Course Description and Objectives:

In this seminar, we will trace the use of Arthurian legend in literature, artwork, film and music of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This READING INTENSIVE course will focus on the ways in which various writers and artists have used the legends to convey different "meanings." In addition to presenting a selection of significant literary and other artistic works, the course aims to remind us of the fact that all such works are the product of a specific historical and cultural context and can be "read" and interpreted in ways that shed light on the values and goals of the artists which produced them.

Two other course objectives are worth noting.  By the end of the quarter, you should feel confident of your ability to use various research tools to identify, locate and access useful secondary sources on a research topic (and know how to document these sources correctly). You will be aware of some of the pitfalls and pleasures of doing research on the Web, and at Cal Poly. Finally, I hope that your study of modern Arthuriana will pique your interest in the medieval sources that inspired them -- and that some of you will choose to read more medieval literature on your own, or with me in another class!

Required Texts / Films Also Recommended:
  • The New Arthurian Encyclopedia, ed. Norris J. Lacy
  • Joseph Gibaldi and Walter S. Achtert, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (most recent edition preferred)
Screenings:The curriculum covered in this course includes five Arthurian films. Please note that the films will NOT be screened in class; you will need to see them on your own prior to the class meeting at which they will be discussed (as assigned on the course calendar).  Copies of all five films can be rented from many local video scores or obtained from e.g. Netflicks; VHS copies are on reserve for ENGL 459 in the Kennedy Library.  See them on your own or by attending one of the group screenings in Library 202 (details will be posted on the course calendar).


You are expected to have an email account and to check it regularly.  Important announcements will be sent over the class email alias: engl-459-02-2082@calpoly.edu.  The class email alias is automatically generated using the email address of each enrolled student found in the Cal Poly Directory server. If your Cal Poly email account is NOT your preferred email address, you must

  • Log into http://my.calpoly.edu/ and click on "Grades and Personal Information" (the "Personal Information Channel") to change your Email Delivery Address. Once you have done so, any email sent to your <username@calpoly.edu> , including all postings to the class alias, will be forwarded to the address you have designated.
Remember: you are responsible for any information sent over the class email alias (e.g. changes in assignments; other class-related announcements), so be sure to check your email regularly.  You may also use the alias to send a query or comment to the whole class (including your instructor).  Please do not use the alias for matters unrelated to class. 

You are also expected to facilitate collaboration with your classmates by submitting regular research progress reports and records of works ordered via LINK+ or ILL to the class research archive, located in a Blackboard "Discussion Board."  To access Blackboard, log in at MyCalpoly, go to "Blackboard Access" and select "ENGL 459-02: Modern Arthurian Literature" from the classes you are taking; then click on "Discussion Board" and link to the "forum" for the research topic you are interested in.  There will be a "forum" for each author/text on which there are oral presentations.  Keep a copy of your research reports in case of technological glitches. Be sure to check after each posting to verify that your submissions have made it into the archive.  If you have trouble posting to the archive, contact the Help Desk (756-7000) and let me know at our next class meeting. Your complete set of Research Progress Reports will factor into the participation component of your final course grade

occasional absences for personal reasons are understandable. . . but not excused!Attendance Policy:  Due to the twice-weekly seminar format, any absence causes you to miss a substantial chunk of material. Regular and punctual attendance is required.  Please note that EVERY absence will affect the participation component of your final course grade

Each student starts out with a 4.0 for attendance.  This component of your final grade drops by .3 for the first UNEXCUSED absence; the penalty increases by .1 for each subsequent unexcused absence (from A [4.0] to A- [3.7] to B+ [3.3], to B- [2.8], etc.).  Additionally, it drops .1 for the first EXCUSED absence (4.0 to 3.9) and .2 for the second excused absence (3.9 to 3.7).  Excused absences in excess of two (a full week, 10% of the class) count the same as unexcused absences.

Please note that only absences resulting from illness, a family emergency, or circumstances truly beyond your control count as excused.  Absences taken for personal convenience are a matter of choice rather than necessity; they will be recorded as unexcused. Please note that deadlines for other courses, work conflicts and job interviews are NOT valid reasons for missing class.  Exception:  a graduating senior will be granted ONE excused absence for an out-of-town job interview. 

FOR ANY ABSENCE TO BE EXCUSED, YOU MUST SUBMIT A SIGNED, WRITTEN NOTE with course number, date missed and an explanation of the circumstances leading to your absence.  (Although I do appreciate your courtesy in letting me know why you have missed a class, an Email or a phone message will not suffice; a written statement with your signature is required for an absence to be excused.) 

Readings are to be completed BEFORE coming to class on the date assigned. You are expected as a matter of course to read assigned pages in the Handbook, introductions in the texts, and any supplemental readings on e-reserve, provided in hard copy, or accessible through a weblink. When possible, try to read the background material FIRST -- it provides a context within which the primary readings will be more meaningful. But when time is short, concentrate on getting through the primary readings which will be the focus of class discussion; you can always make up the background readings later.
Please note that some required readings are found on the web (through e.g. the Camelot Project) or have been placed on "electronic reserve" as .PDF files in the Library Resources section of Blackboard. To access Blackboard, log in at MyCalpoly, go to "Blackboard Access" and select "ENGL 459-02" from the classes you are taking. Click on the link in the Electronic Reserves section (under "Library Resources") to download, read and/or print the file using Acrobat Reader. Other required readings (listed as "Online readings") are .html files which you can access by clicking on the link on the Calendar of Assignments.  Finally, some required readings may be found in subscription-only databases in Kennedy Library collections.  To access these readings, click on the link on the Calendar of Assignments; you will be prompted to type in your last name and library barcode (the 14-digit number beginning 20150 on the front of your PolyCard).  You can then download, read and/or print the file using Acrobat Reader. Please note that ALL electronically accessed required readings should be PRINTED OUT AND BROUGHT WITH YOU TO CLASS.

Be prepared to DISCUSS readings in class. Note that the length and difficulty of assignments vary, so look ahead in the reading list when you are planning your time. You will be responsible for ALL the assigned readings, whether fully discussed in class or not, as well as for the additional background material presented in lectures, online readings, or in student presentations and in class discussion. 

Be aware that the research component of this course requires additional preparation which CANNOT be left until the week before your oral presentation or prospectus is due.  To get started, come to an Office Hour (or make an appointment to see me) by the end of week 3 at the latest.  We will use this initial meeting to brainstorm, to discuss possible topics and approaches, to help you get the hang of some of the online research tools, and/or simply to get acquainted.  After this initial meeting, feel free to come back whenever you feel you would benefit from additional consultation.  This means: if you feel confused or overwhelmed, don't despair; CONTACT ME and let me help you troubleshoot!

Graded Work:

RESEARCH EXERCISES and REPORTS to the CLASS RESEARCH ARCHIVE:  found in the right-hand column on the calendar of assignments, the series of research exercises is designed to guide you as you begin your research and to ensure that you are familiar with (and have in fact used) the most important bibliographic research tools in preparing your oral presentation and in writing your research paper.  Research Exercises will be graded for accuracy and completeness; please follow directions! Please endeavor to complete assignments within a week of the target dates when they appear on the calendar of assignments. 

Failure to post the required research reports has a significant negative impact on the collaborative aspect of this seminar. Your research reports provide a "roadmap" for any classmate(s) who may wish to incorporate the text or film you have researched into their final project(s); they also allow seminar participants to pool their resources and "share the wealth" without recalling each other's books or wasting the library's limited financial resources by placing multiple Interlibrary Loan and Link+ requests for the same items.  Because your complete set of archived Research Progress Reports will be an important resource for your classmates, they are an integral part of your participation grade

NOTE to the research-challenged: even if you have no prior experience using Kennedy Library research tools, please note that following the instructions in the guided research exercises is simply not that difficult. (You are all English majors and presumably know how to read!)  Failure to submit research reports to the archive would be a truly unnecessary way to lose points in this class!

If you are worried about the research component of this seminar, my best advice is to:

  • get started on your research early -- DO NOT put it off until the week before your presentation!;
  • READ THE INSTRUCTIONS in the guided research exercises and FOLLOW THEM!;
  • POST YOUR REPORTS to the ARCHIVE in a timely manner so that they can benefit both you and your classmates; and
  • COME SEE ME if you are having difficulty geting started or finding what you need!

ORAL PRESENTATION: Starting in week three, each reading will be presented by one or more students, working together to avoid repetition (sign-ups the first week of class). This ORAL PRESENTATION (no more than 20 min. per student!) will be the starting point for class discussion, led jointly by presenters and professor. The presentation should illuminate some aspect of the reading, artwork or film, that is relevant to the work of the seminar, suggesting one or more critical, thematic, stylistic or structural approach(es) to the work (or to one or more of its episodes, motifs or characters). If you choose, you may summarize a secondary source which you have found particularly interesting or useful, provided that you keep the focus on the way in which this secondary reading helps us better to understand the primary work (literary text, artwork or film). Students are encouraged (but not required) to develop this presentation topic more fully in the final research paper. Please note: you are NOT expected to become a world expert on your assigned topic; you are merely responsible for helping to introduce it to your classmates!   Click on link for ORAL PRESENTATION SCHEDULE.

Each presenter will prepare and distribute an ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHY of at least five secondary sources dealing with the primary reading (including any essay or article presented in class). Entries should be alphabetized as on a List of Works Cited and should begin with full bibliographic references (consult the Guide to Research Tools and/or your MLA Handbook for correct formats!) followed by a brief summary of the primary thrust of the article, essay or book (what it argues about your text/author/film -- not praise for or a critique of the article, essay or book). Be sure to include at least one of each of the following types of resources journal article, essay in an edited book collection, and single-author book; also, you must include at least one item obtained using each of the following modes of access: an item found in hard copy at the Kennedy Library (state "Cal Poly" and give call number in parentheses at end of annotation; don't neglect to consult the items on Reserve for this class!); one item each that has been appropriately ordered through LINK+and ILL (state which in parentheses at end of annotation); and a source accessed electronically through a subscription database in the Kennedy Library collections (the name of the database is incorporated into a correctly formatted citation for an item accessed electronically through a Kennedy Library subscription database).  The Annotated Bibliography will be graded for complete and correct bibliographic citations; for the distribution of items over the required types of sources and modes of access; and for the expression and quality of the summary.

Your Oral Presentation and Annotated Bibliography count toward your in-class work grade

Please note:  you will need to start researching your topic immediately in order to obtain materials through LINK+ and Interlibrary Loan.  You should meet with Prof. Schwartz (and other presenters on same day, if applicable) no later than the third week of class for bibliographic suggestions and to discuss the focus of your presentation (possible topics, approaches, etc.).

MIDTERM EXAM: currently scheduled 3/10/08 (week 10, after we have finished reading The Mists of Avalon) in order to provide maximum choice on the essay component of the exam; however, midterm date MAY be moved forward to week eight or nine.  Closed book. The exam will consist of some combination of the following: factual questions (from lectures, assigned introductory materials, online readings and handouts, including film criticism); chronology of works studied; identification of key characters, events, objects and motifs; identification of significant passages from readings; choice of essay questions. 

PAPER PROSPECTUS:  Normally ungraded; to be turned in to me in at our class meeting on W 2/20 (or, by PRIOR ARRANGEMENT, submitted electronically via email attachment no later than 6 PM on F 2/22).  Your Prospectus must include a working title which clearly identifies the work(s) discussed as well as topic of your paper; a fully articulated thesis (not just a statement of general topic); a tentative outline of paper; and a working bibliography of at least eight sources (alphabetized and in correct MLA bibliographic citation format). NOTE: If an acceptable Prospectus is submitted on time, it will be used solely for feedback to help you write a stronger final research paper.  But if no prospectus is submitted or the prospectus does not fulfill therequirements of the assignment, it will be graded and will count for 10% of your final course grade. In that case ONLY, the Research Paper component of your final grade will decrease to 30%.  (Note: failure to submit a prospectus will result in 10% of your final course grade = F.) 

RESEARCH PAPER: 15-20 pp. long, citing at least 6 secondary sources (Senior Project Students: 20-25 pp. and 8 secondary sources).  Final paper may be connected to oral presentation.  Worth 40% of final course grade (except as noted above). Unless an extension has been arranged in advance, Research Papers (along with the original, marked up prospectus) are due on Friday, 3/14 (or if an extension has been arranged in advance, no later than 6 PM on Monday, 3/17).

FINAL ORAL EXERCISE: at a mutually convenient time between the last class meeting and Wednesday of exam week (3/19/08), there will be a required final oral exercise: a brief presentation to your classmates of the premise and conclusions of your final research paper.  While the presentation will be ungraded, failure to complete the Final Oral Exercise will result in a grade of "F" being averaged with your Midterm Exam score. Ideally, the Final Oral Exercise will take place at my home in conjunction with a celebratory meal. . . but in the event that we cannot schedule a late afternoon / early evening meeting on or before W 3/19/08, it will take place in 34-227 (our usual classroom) at the scheduled final exam time:10:10 AM - 1:00 PM on Monday, 3/17NEWS FLASH: the W08 Final Oral Exercise has now been scheduled for 5:30 PM on Monday, 3/17.  Mark your calendars!

NOTE:  I do not typically include reading quizzes in my 400-level seminars.  However, should it become apparent that students are not keeping up with assigned readings, I reserve the right to start!  Reading quizzes in my classes typically consist of  a combination of passage IDs; factual questions (based on assigned background readings, as well as character or event IDs); and content-specific questions based upon primary material (readings, films and artwork: significant plot developments, roles played by various characters, etc.)  There is typically an element of choice on my quizzes, and they are typically unannounced.  In the (unlikely) event that reading quizzes prove necessary, they will be incorporated into the in-class work component of your final course grade.


10%  Participation (including attendance and archived research reports).
20% In-class work: equal weight to Oral Presentation and annotated bibliography.  (Should I determine that reading quizzes are necessary to ensure class members are keeping up with assignments, they will be factored into this portion of the final grade.)
30% Miderm Exam. NOTE: Failure to participate in the final oral exercise will result in an F being averaged with this grade.
40% Research PaperNOTE: If an acceptable Research Paper Prospectus is submitted on time, it will be considered an ungraded exercise designed solely to provide feedback to help you write a stronger final paper.  But if the prospectus submitted does not fulfill the requirements of the assignment, or if it is submitted late, it will be graded and will count for 10% of your final course grade. In that case, the research paper itself will be worth only 30%.  NOTE: Failure to submit a prospectus will result in 10% of your final course grade = F!!

Research Tools:
Schwartz Web pages:
Online Readings:
 Arthurian Resources: