English 233: Introduction to Western Humanities - Baroque & Enlightenment


There will be 3 exams.   Each exam is worth 100 points.  

An additional 100 points is possible on the basis of contributions to discussions via the class Threaded Message Board.

There is also the possibility of improving your score through undertaking extra-credit assignments.  

Final course grades will be assigned according to the following scale, which indicates the lower cut-off score for grades A through D:

A =  360 points (90% of the 400 total points possible)
B =  320 points (80% of the total points possible)
C =  240  points (60% of the total points possible)
D =  200 points (50% the total points possible)
F =  below 200 points (under 50% of the total possible points)

Let's look at each of the point categories more closely.

The 3 exams

Each exam will have a short-essay and an "objective" answer component, and will be worth 100 points.  As the examinations approach, I will make available a prep sheet here on the Web, accessible through the Course Schedule.  The examinations will not be cumulative with respect to the particular works (readings, paintings, etc.) covered.  But students will be expected to relate issues taken up in the works under examination to issues developed earlier in the course.

The following will be available for your perusal a week before the date of the exam in question.  In each case you will be asked to write a few short essays and to answer a series of "objective" questions.  You will want to ponder the criteria for evaluating essays.

  • Topics for the out-of-class essay portion of Exam 1.
  • Prep sheet for the in-class portion of Exam 1.
  • Topics for the out-of-class essay portion of Exam 2.
  • Prep sheet for the in-class portion of Exam 2.
  • Part One of the Final Exam may be taken in your choice of either of two forms.
    • You may write it out of class.  Here are the topic options for this alternative on Part One.
    • Or during the second hour of the final exam period you may take an in-class exam over the same material.  Here is the prep sheet for this alternative on Part Two.
  • Prep sheet for Part Two of the Final Exam:  the obligatory in-class portion of the Final.

Dates for the in-class parts of the exams, and deadlines for the out-of-class essay parts, are on Parts 1, 2, and 3 of the Course Schedule, respectively.

Note:  If circumstances warrant, I may substitute a series of out-of-class essays for part or all of one or more exams.  If this happens, I will of course announce it in class and via an e-mail message from the class roster at online.ksu.edu.

In special cases, at the instructor's discretion, students may be invited to rewrite some portion of an examination for partial credit.

Contributions to discussions on the class Threaded Message Board

In the course of the semester, you should aim to contribute at least 20 remarks to the discussions that develop on the class "Threaded Message Board."  You should begin as soon as I inform you, via the class listserv, that the Message Board is up and running.  And you should aim to participate regularly:  you ought to have something to say at least each week after the Discussion Board is operating.  Here is how the scoring works:

For each minimally acceptable contribution, up to a total of 20 you will receive 5 points.  

Students who delay their participation until the last couple of weeks can expect to have their total somewhat discounted.  The rate of discount will be at my discretion.  Your best strategy is thus simply to deprive me of the occasion for even considering the need to do this.

Conversely, students whose contributions strike me as especially thoughtful and useful to the class as a whole may be given a few extra points beyond the nominal maximum of 100.  No extra credit will be possible, however, unless the full 100 points possible has been earned with at least 25 acceptable entries.  I will strive to be even-handed in awarding extra credit of this sort.  That is:  if John and Mary have both performed with roughly equal special merit in this category, and I add (say) 5 points to Mary's score beyond the 100, John deserves the same 5 points.  But what constitutes this or that level of special excellence is a matter for me to decide at my discretion..

Participation in discussion via the message boards are thus a required feature of the course -- not just an optional, extra-credit possibility.

Here is an entire 100 points that is easy to acquire -- the equivalent of a perfect score on one of the exams!  But it's also a 100 points -- a full 25% of the total points possible for the course -- that it would be disastrous to forego.  

Therefore:  resolve to be a regular and enthusiastic participant in these discussions.  If you do not have a computer at home, be sure to schedule in time to do this in one of the public computer labs on campus, or in the InfoCommons at Hale Library.  Or make sure to visit your local library, or a friend with a computer, if you are living somewhere other than Manhattan.

But back now to the basic question of what constitutes a "minimally acceptable" contribution for the purposes of earning 5 points?  Here are some criteria that I think are reasonable.

  1. It should be concerned with some intellectual issue raised by the topics we take up in our readings or classroom discussions.  Questions about administrative matters -- when an assignment is due, or whether one might have an extension on an assignment, or when one can expect to get back graded work -- are not for the Message Board.  Instead, these should be addressed to me though regular e-mail (lyman@ksu.edu).  Of course students are welcome to discuss these matters among themselves, but this should be done outside the Message Board.
  2. It should go beyond a bare response to someone else's contribution.  Saying "I agree" is in order, but if it is to count here you need to explain why by pointing to some additional supporting reason beyond what was already mentioned by the person with whose remarks you are in agreement.
  3. Questions are just as eligible as statements.  Anything that gets other people's minds engaged in relevant issues is obviously doing the kind of thing we should value in a course like ours.
  4. Here are some of the moves that might be useful in responding to someone else's ideas:
    1. Detecting an assumption behind what was said.
    2. Spelling out an implication from what was said.
    3. Suggesting an additional piece evidence supporting something of what was said.
    4. Calling attention to some fact that might lead us to want to qualify what was said.
    5. Drawing a connection (for example, a comparison or a contrast) between what was said regarding a particular work under discussion and some other work we have explored.
  5. Length is not essential, but substance is.
  6. At the same time, a contribution could be something with which we seriously disagree and still deserve the 2 points we are talking about here.  It could be based on a crucial misunderstanding.  Fine!  We then have an occasion for clearing things up!  That's one of the most important purposes of intellectual dialogue.  Putting forth our ideas that turn out to be off-the-mark in this or that way is a major contribution to any serious discussion.  Not only do we learn something ourselves, but we prompt other people to exert themselves to get to the bottom of things, and to formulate a clear response.

Keep your eye out for an e-mail with word that our Message Board is running.  Meanwhile, here are some tips for using this medium to best effect.

Extra-credit opportunities

In addition to the examinations, each student will be allowed to do one optional extra-credit assignments, worth up to 10 points that will be added to the point total (numerator) without being figured into the denominator (350) in the calculation of the final grade on the basis of percentage (90-100% = A; 80-89% = B; 60-79% = C; 50-59% = D; below 50% = F).  

Finally, students who score below C+ (75) on the first or second exam may undertake additional extra-credit assignments sufficient to raise their score to this level.  Thus going into the third exam, every student will have had ample opportunity to put himself or herself within shooting distance of a course grade of B.

These are described in further detail in a separate memo.  Click here to read about them.

Participation in classroom discussions is also important.  

Here, however,  I do not employ a formal scheme for assigning points.  Rather, when I am faced, at the end of the course, with a case in which a student's total score is just barely beneath the cutoff for a higher course grade, I consult my overall impression of whether and to what degree that student has participated actively and consistently in classroom discussions.  If the answer is "definitely a lot," I am inclined to give the student the benefit of a percentage-point or so of extra credit.  Otherwise, I leave the grade as it is.  This of course is a matter of my subjective impression, but what that impression will turn out to be is fully within the control of the individual student, in the course of the semester.

Students are encouraged to discuss course materials with each other.  This includes prep sheets for in-class part of the examinations, topics for the out-of-class essay portions of the exams, and extra-credit assignments.  In addition to arranging study sessions among classmates, students may also want to exploit the course listserv to communicate with the rest of the class via e-mail.  Especially useful will be the course message board, where students can initiate discussion on particular topics and contribute to those already under way.

However, all written work submitted for grade -- whether out-of-class or in-class -- must be composed entirely by the individual student.  Faculty Senate regulations require me to bring your attention the following statement:  "Plagiarism and cheating areserious offenses and may be punished by failure on the exam, paper or project; failure in the course; and/or expulsion from the university."  For more information,

A final note on the writing you do for this course: what you write is your own property, but whatever you submit in response to the requirements of the course may be reproduced and distributed for discussion and/or reflection by other members of the class. Written work that I decide to use this way will not be identified with the person who submitted it, unless I am holding it up as an example particularly worthy of emulation.

If I think there is merit in using beyond our course something you have written during our course, I will use it this way only after I have sought and obtained your permission to do so.  If you allow me to make such use of your work, you may specify (for instance) whether it is attributed to you or whether it is presented as the work of an anonymous student.

  Go to the Home Page of the course.

  Suggestions, comments and questions are welcome.  Please send them to lyman@ksu.edu .

      Contents copyright 2003 by Lyman A. Baker

Permission is granted for non-commercial educational use; all other rights reserved.

      This page last updated ,( January /),( .