Syllabus for LIT-202



The literature of the Western Hemisphere has influenced and shaped its culture, from history and art to philosophy and religion. Literary Roots of Western Culture introduces and explores those literary works that have arguably had the greatest influence.

From the “In the beginning. . .” of the Bible's Book of Genesis to Franz Kafka’s 20-century hallucinatory story of a dung beetle, Western literature has grappled with serious questions about our identity as human beings, about how we determine what is right and wrong, about how we can know or approach God, about how we can distinguish reality from illusion, about how we can know true beauty, as well as other questions we grapple with in our lives. This course explores the answers that the West's best writers and thinkers have provided, as well as the issues and questions they have raised.

Names such as Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy are familiar to most people, yet relatively few have experienced these works personally. Students will be introduced to a selection of the “great books” of Western literature and encouraged to enter into a dialogue with them through use of a personal journal.

The course spans thousands of years grouped into seven broad periods:

  1. Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Literature, which covers literature of the ancient biblical, Greek, and Roman worlds

  1. Circling the Mediterranean: Europe and the Islamic World, overlapping somewhat with the previous section and dealing with literature from the first century C.E. through the 1400s, including Dante

  1. Europe and the New World: Early Modernity, covering European literature from the 1300s through the late 1600s, including Shakespeare and Milton

  1. The Enlightenment in Europe and the Americas, focusing on the time of the Enlightenment and covering literature from the mid-1600s through the late 1700s, including Moliere and Voltaire

  1. An Age of Revolutions in Europe and the Americas, covering literature from the early 1700s through the first decade of the 1900s, including Goethe

  1. Realism, which deals with this literary movement in the 1800s, including Flaubert, Dostoevsky, and Tolstoy

  1. Modernity and Modernism, which deals with modernism as it has been expressed since 1900, including Kafka


After completing this course, you should be able to:

  1. Describe primary literary texts that have shaped Western culture.

  1. Demonstrate your appreciation and understanding of these works with reference to the works themselves as well as the reflective journal you have kept during the course.

  1. Synthesize your knowledge of and response to literature to demonstrate insight and interpretation.

  1. Explain some of the questions, issues, answers, and controversies found in the "great works" of Western literature.

  1. Show the relevance of particular texts to the lives and identities of people in today’s world.

  1. Demonstrate your mastery of the reading by composing a formal essay of 8 to 12 pages that answers a comprehensive question in an organized, cogent, coherent, and unified way, free of spelling and grammatical errors that would detract from a reader's understanding.


You will need the following materials to do the work of the course. The required textbooks are available from the University's textbook supplier, MBS Direct.

Required Textbooks

Students please note: Access to the Norton Anthology StudySpace website requires purchase of a new (not used) textbook.

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93364-2

ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93363-5


ISBN-13: 978-0199536368

Online Sources

Norton Anthology StudySpace

Note: The links provided have been reviewed and were working at the time of course release. The fluid nature of the Internet, however, means one or more of the sites may have moved, changed, or been discontinued. You are encouraged to search for additional background material—not just on the Internet, but also at your local library. The works assigned have been around for thousands of years and some very good material written about them is available in print only.

Writing Sources and Tutorial Options

Literary Roots of Western Culture is a writing-intensive course that places great emphasis on helping you to further develop your writing skills. Listed below are helpful writing resources and tutoring options:


Literary Roots of Western Culture is a three-credit, online course consisting of ten modules. Modules include learning objectives, study materials, and activities. Module titles are listed below.


For your formal work in the course, you are required to participate in online discussion forums, complete written assignments, and complete a final project. In addition, after each set of readings, you will write about what you read in a reflective journal and submit your efforts to your mentor. See below for more details.


In this course you will read works of literature as well as examine websites, videos, and other material that will deepen and challenge your understanding of the literary works. Your reading assignments will appear under the Study Materials heading within each module. Following that you will find an “Online Assignment.” Viewing and study of these online items is part of your assignment just as the readings are; in other words, they are not supplementary material (unless they are clearly labeled as such). You'll be expected to refer to them in your journal assignments and elsewhere in the course.

Consult the Course Calendar for assignment due dates.

Promoting Originality

One or more of your course activities may utilize a tool designed to promote original work and evaluate your submissions for plagiarism. More information about this tool is available in this document.

Discussion Forums

Literary Roots of Western Culture has five graded online discussions based on Internet assignments drawn from the textbook. There is also an ungraded but required Introductions Forum in Module 1.


Communication among fellow students and with the mentor is a critical component of online learning. Participation in online discussions involves two distinct assignments: an initial response to a posted question (discussion thread) and subsequent comments on classmates' responses. Meaningful participation is relevant to the content, adds value, and advances the discussion. Comments such as “I agree” and “ditto” are not considered value-adding participation. Therefore, when you agree or disagree with a classmate, the reading, or your mentor, state and support your agreement or disagreement. You will be evaluated on the quality and quantity of your participation. Responses and comments should be properly proofread and edited, professional, and respectful.

Reflective Journal Entries

Throughout this course you will be asked to keep a reflective journal that records your reactions to the literature you have read. This journal, though shared with your mentor, will not be graded on content or for grammatical expression. You are submitting it to your mentor mainly so he or she knows that you are reading and responding to the literature as the course progresses. If you submit the journal regularly and it shows that you have been doing the reading, you will receive the full number of points toward your final grade.

Although you are not graded on your entries, you will be asked to make reference to your reflective journal in your final assessment paper. Be sure to keep your own copy of your journal as well as submitting regular installments to your mentor.

There is no prescribed length for your journal entries, but they should generally be about one page, double-spaced. They are not intended to be detailed analyses, just your honest reaction.

Written Assignments

Literary Roots of Western Culture has five written assignments. The written assignments are the primary means for you to express yourself verbally during the semester, controlling content and meaning.

Take the time to familiarize yourself with and read through the written assignments before you begin each lesson. Your answers to the assignment questions should be well developed and convey your understanding of the course materials. They should also adequately answer the question. If you need help in writing, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Also, formulate responses in your own words. Do not merely copy answers from your reading materials. When quoting or paraphrasing from the texts or other sources, be sure to properly cite the source of information. MLA style is generally used in the Humanities, so it is the preferred style in this course.

Prepare your written assignments using whatever word processing program you have on your computer. Include your name at the top of the paper, as well as the course name and code and the semester and year in which you are enrolled.

Before submitting your first assignment, check with your mentor to determine whether your word processing software is compatible with your mentor's software. If so, you can submit your work as you prepared it. If not, save your assignment as a rich-text (.rtf) file, using the Save As command of your software program. Rich text retains basic formatting and can be read by any other word processing program.

Final Paper—Final Comprehensive Assessment

There is no midterm or final proctored examination in this course. An 8- to 12-page paper, described below, acts as your final assessment and is worth 50 percent of your grade. You may begin work on this paper at any time during the course, but you must submit it by the last day of the semester.


All too often, the study of literature seems to students to be about definitions of terms and memorization of facts. This course has been designed to emphasize the pleasure of reading and of informed discussion and reflection. As a result, the course replaces a proctored examination with an ongoing (ungraded) journal and a final reflective paper that incorporates insights from that journal. This paper serves as the final assessment for this course.


Your final paper should be 8 to 12 pages in length (2000 to 3300 words). Possible topics are listed in the Final Project section of the course site. You will review your reading, your written assignments, and your journal entries. Then you will organize your thoughts on one of the listed topics, including appropriate quotations from your journal.

Your final paper should be well developed and should convey your understanding of readings and concepts, as well as answer the question adequately. It should be organized, cogent, coherent, and unified; it should also be free of spelling and grammatical errors. If you need help in writing such a paper, take a look at The Writing Center: University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When quoting or paraphrasing from the text or other sources, be sure to cite the source of information properly according to MLA guidelines.

Note: Your final assessment paper must include both quotations from your reflective journal and references to your own personal experience.


Your grade in the course will be determined as follows:

All activities will receive a numerical grade of 0–100. You will receive a score of 0 for any work not submitted. Your final grade in the course will be a letter grade. Letter grade equivalents for numerical grades are as follows:






























Below 60

To receive credit for the course, you must earn a letter grade of C or better (for an area of study course) or D or better (for a course not in your area of study), based on the weighted average of all assigned course work (e.g., assignments, discussion postings, final assessment).


First Steps to Success

To succeed in this course, take the following first steps:

Study Tips

Consider the following study tips for success:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to maintaining academic quality, excellence, and honesty. The University expects all members of its community to share the commitment to academic integrity, an essential component of a quality academic experience.

Students at Thomas Edison State University are expected to exhibit the highest level of academic citizenship. In particular, students are expected to read and follow all policies, procedures, and program information guidelines contained in publications; pursue their learning goals with honesty and integrity; demonstrate that they are progressing satisfactorily and in a timely fashion by meeting course deadlines and following outlined procedures; observe a code of mutual respect in dealing with mentors, staff, and other students; behave in a manner consistent with the standards and codes of the profession in which they are practicing; keep official records updated regarding changes in name, address, telephone number, or e-mail address; and meet financial obligations in a timely manner. Students not practicing good academic citizenship may be subject to disciplinary action including suspension, dismissal, or financial holds on records.

All members of the University community are responsible for reviewing the Academic Code of Conduct Policy in the University Catalog and online at

Academic Dishonesty

Thomas Edison State University expects all of its students to approach their education with academic integrity—the pursuit of scholarly activity free from fraud and deception. All mentors and administrative staff members at the University insist on strict standards of academic honesty in all courses. Academic dishonesty undermines this objective. Academic dishonesty can take the following forms:


Thomas Edison State University is committed to helping students understand the seriousness of plagiarism, which is defined as using the work and ideas of others without proper citation. The University takes a strong stance against plagiarism, and students found to be plagiarizing are subject to discipline under the academic code of conduct policy.

If you copy phrases, sentences, paragraphs, or whole documents word-for-word—or if you paraphrase by changing a word here and there—without identifying the author, or without identifying it as a direct quote, then you are plagiarizing. Please keep in mind that this type of identification applies to Internet sources as well as to print-based sources. Copying and pasting from the Internet, without using quotation marks and without acknowledging sources, constitutes plagiarism. (For information about how to cite Internet sources, see Online Student Handbook > Academic Standards > Citing Sources.)

Accidentally copying the words and ideas of another writer does not excuse the charge of plagiarism. It is easy to jot down notes and ideas from many sources and then write your own paper without knowing which words are your own and which are someone else’s. It is more difficult to keep track of each and every source. However, the conscientious writer who wishes to avoid plagiarizing never fails to keep careful track of sources.

Always be aware that if you write without acknowledging the sources of your ideas, you run the risk of being charged with plagiarism.

Clearly, plagiarism, no matter the degree of intent to deceive, defeats the purpose of education. If you plagiarize deliberately, you are not educating yourself, and you are wasting your time on courses meant to improve your skills. If you plagiarize through carelessness, you are deceiving yourself.

For examples of unintentional plagiarism, advice on when to quote and when to paraphrase, and information about writing assistance, click the links provided below.

Examples of Unintentional Plagiarism

When to Quote and When to Paraphrase

Writing Assistance at Smarthinking

Disciplinary Process for Plagiarism

Acts of both intentional and unintentional plagiarism violate the Academic Code of Conduct.

If an incident of plagiarism is an isolated minor oversight or an obvious result of ignorance of proper citation requirements, the mentor may handle the matter as a learning exercise. Appropriate consequences may include the completion of tutorials, assignment rewrites, or any other reasonable learning tool in addition to a lower grade for the assignment or course. The mentor will notify the student and appropriate dean of the consequence by e-mail.

If the plagiarism appears intentional and/or is more than an isolated incident, the mentor will refer the matter to the appropriate dean, who will gather information about the violation(s) from the mentor and student, as necessary. The dean will review the matter and notify the student in writing of the specifics of the charge and the sanction to be imposed.

Possible sanctions include:

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