HST 354U, Early Medieval Europe, 300-1100
Portland State University
Fall 2017
(c) John S. Ott


  100 points each (300 total)
Response #1 due on or before 10/26. Response #2 due between 10/31 and 11/30 (inclusive). Response #3 due between 10/3 and 11/30 (inclusive).
You may only submit one response in any given class.

General guidelines - Please read carefully

The reading responses (you are required to do three of them over the course of the term) are designed to present you with a writing format that will stimulate you to think about and reflect on the primary sources as you read them. Our primary sources are the documents written in the Middle Ages, by medieval reporters and witnesses.  Note that you are welcome to consult and even incorporate the (optional) textbook by Chris Wickham (The Inheritance of Rome) and to refer to other secondary readings that we will read this term, but the bulk of your analysis should focus on the primary sources.  Responses should be about 3 pp., typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins.  Please make sure that your name, the date, and page numbers appear on each response.  Title is optional, but encouraged. Indicate which reading(s) you are responding to somewhere at the head of the paper.

Each response must address a minimum of 2 primary sources.

Make sure to include references to the texts you are reading and citing (page numbers, put in parentheses and embedded in the text, are all you need).

Responses will be assigned their grade based on the following factors: (1) the evident effort put into them, as determined by the extent to which they engage the ideas in the texts in a manner that is cogent, lucidly argued, and intellectually productive; (2) the accuracy and care with which they represent the authors' ideas or source themes, to which you are responding; (3) their use of evidence from the texts; (4) their quality of writing, including grammar, syntax, and spelling, all of which goes to the essay's analytical clarity.

Due dates and further considerations - Please Read Carefully!

Response #1 must be submitted on or before October 26
Response #2 must be submitted between October 31 and November 30 (inclusive)
Response #3 may be submitted any time between October 3 and November 30.

Your responses must be turned in on the day of the assigned readings which are under discussion.  So, if you  wish to respond to the readings for October 5 on "A barbarian Empire," the response itself must be turned in on October 5, not afterward..

Responses may not incorporate outside source materials.


For the responses, read closely your chosen texts and consider the significance of their historical subject matter, themes, ideas, characters, arguments, imagery, or other relevant aspects of the work.  For starters, you may wish to examine the details and nature of the source itself:  What is the source about?  Who wrote it, why, and for what audience (popular, learned, lay, clerical, expert)?  What were the author's basic assumptions (historical, religious, philosophical, political), interests, beliefs, convictions, ideas?  What was the author's agenda or purpose in writing?  How do you know?  What is the work's structure or organization?  Is the source a work of history, biography, hagiography, a sermon, a dialogue, a treatise, a letter?  Is the author trying to convince/persuade, convert, educate, polemicize, preach, curry favor, titillate?  How do its genre and format affect its purpose and reception?

You are encouraged to reflect on the details in the readings that most interest you.  There are no "right answers" here, exactly, but the venturing of "opinion" and idle speculation without demonstration from the text is discouraged.  Rather, I am looking for you to analyze an issue or question that intrigues you, in a thoughtful and lucid essay, using documentary support from the texts.  You do not need to be comprehensive in your coverage of the text(s), but do not simply summarize the work's contents.  Think carefully about an aspect or aspects of the author's ideas or argument, and engage those ideas with a supported criticism of your own.  Avoid simply interjecting your "opinion," but instead try to build an argument using the text as evidence.

Finally: it may help to think of the reading responses as mini-essays or thought pieces: develop a thesis or point of argument, ponder or debate the ideas in the works, adding evidence as necessary, and write a brief conclusion about your findings.  Each response is weighted 100 points, or 10% of the final grade.  If you fail to submit one, the highest course grade you can earn is a 90.  If you fail to submit two, the highest course grade you can earn is an 80.