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Hegemony and Semantics:

How Language Shapes the Realization of Power


Language exerts hidden power, like a moon on the tides 




Journal Prompts:           Does Beowulf deserve to be the Ring Thane? Why or Why Not?

                                    How does Beowulf’s strength make him a good king?

                                    If I could make my own Round Table…

                                    What makes a good “king?”

                                    If I were Charlemagne I would change Britain by…

                                    My own Magna Charta:

                                    Were kings “divinely” ordained to lead?

                                    The Catholic Church: hegemony of a different color

                                    If I could write my own Canon I would include…

                                    What is important enough for me to kill?


Vocabulary Projects:    Where do we see the birthmarks of the English language?

                                    How did Latin alter the Romance Languages and English?

How did French hegemony affect the English language?

What are the signs of English becoming a language in itself?


Grammar:                     Hortatory: the persuasiveness of inclusion

                                    Jussive: the relationship between suggestion and command

                                    Imperative: the role of the exclamation mark (!)

                                    Direct Address: what’s in a name?                               

                                    The Royal “We:” self-image or self-imagining?

                                    The Poetic Plural: how art can change the rules


Literary Devices:           Hyperbole: how we use exaggeration to change POV

                                    Litotes: Understatement as rhetorical strategy

                                    Anaphora: the power of repetition

                                    Tricolon Crescens: An examination of political speech


Research Paper:           How a British Ruler came to/kept power (Beowulf to present)


Oral Presentation:         Product of Research – Narrative and Analysis


PowerPoint:                  The Word: Power


Movie:                          British Leaders (Beowulf to present)




British Literature Research Paper


Over the course of these next 18 weeks we will be delving deeply in the counterpoints of British literature and rulership.  The language of power gives insight not only into the mindset of the leader, but, by extension, the mindset of the people at that time as well.  What I want you to do is explore the various nexi of language and the process of power from the death of Beowulf to ascent of Tony Blair.  Then, with these issues in mind, I’d like you to prove to me how language was intimately involved with power, either in ascension, in maintenance, or in a leader’s downfall.


For example:


Tony Blair’s decision to align himself with American President George W. Bush was a reflection of the uncertainty of the early part of the 20th century and an attempt to create a fake national stability to battle international concerns about terrorism.


Henry the Eighth’s decision to create the Anglican Church was more a reflection of social change and the ideology of convenience than an actual move against the policies and beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church, although it is commonly grouped with the protestant revolution.


Do not be alarmed, this paper will not be as hard as it sounds.  As long as you follow the steps we discuss in class and turn in completed work on time you are guaranteed to get an A.  This is intended both to help us better understand the historical context of British literature and to boost the class grade.  Here is your schedule:


Wed, Jan 30th – pick topic                                                      

Wed, Feb 20th – provide list of sources                                    (20%)

Wed, Feb 27th – outline due (with thesis statement)                  (20%)

Wed, Mar 5th – rough draft due                                               (20%)

Wed, Mar 12th – final draft due.                                                (40%)


I will be giving you a lot of feedback during each step, as long as the corrections and emendations I suggest are done you will get an A on the final paper.  As you can see, each portion successfully completed will go towards your final grade.


*5-7 pages                                                       *bibliography with at least 5 sources

*12 pt font                                                       *only 3 sources can be internet-based

*double spaced                                                            *standard margins

*all sources academic (NO WIKIPEDIA, no encyclopedias)

*Cover page (not included in the 4-6 pages) with name and title of your work.






Speech Assignment

Now that you have finished your research paper we are going to use the materials you discovered in the research process to help teach the rest of the class about your respective ruler.  While humor is an important part of creating an effective presentation, I’d like you to refrain as much as possible from trying to “funny it up” too much.  There is a reason for this, so don’t think you won’t have an opportunity to show your funny bone, just not on this particular assignment.  A big part of this process will include workshopping your pieces.  There will be 3 weeks of workshopping before you present your final project to the class.  Your work-shopping group will be assigned, and you are expected to bring a completed draft each workshopping day.  When you are workshopping please make sure you are using CONSTRUCTIVE criticism to help your peers improve their final product.


*five minutes

*three page script

*note cards/teleprompter/visual cues acceptable


Assessment will be based on notable improvements from one draft to the next (earlier copies must be turned in) as well as the rubric we have been using for the research assignment.


Wed, Mar 19th 1st Draft due                                                                 (20%)

Wed, Mar 26th – 2nd draft due                                                                             (20%)

Wed, Apr 2nd – 3rd draft due                                                                               (20%)

Wed, Apr 9th – Final presentation                                                                     (40%)



Power-Point Assignment

We have just watched a clip of “The Word” from The Colbert Report.  Based on the Stephen Colbert model I’d like you to design your own segment of “The Word” based on your oral presentation.  You will need to design 15 or more power-point slides to accompany your speech.  These should be funny, snide, sarcastic, even surreal, the only limit here is your imagination – and good taste.  You will continue to work with your groups to proof your Presentation with the Power-Point slides, there will only be one work-shopping day for this assignment, so you will need to do a lot of the brain-work on your own.  Assessment will be based on the same rubric as the earlier projects.


*five minutes

*15+ slides

*appropriate content


Wed, Apr 16th – Draft Due                                                                                  (40%)

Wed, Apr 23rd – Final Draft                                                                                (60%)



Movie Project

For the final step in our Multi-Genre Research Paper we will now delve into the word of digital composition.  Using MovieMaker, by Microsoft, we will be creating movies based on the power-point slides and speeches we made for earlier projects.  If this seems overwhelming, don’t worry – you’ve actually already done the hard part.  Using your speech as a storyboard you will cull images from Google Image that highlight key points in your speech.  Then, exporting your powerpoints into MovieMaker, you will work the slides into the storyboard as well.  You should expect to have 10-15 images per slide.  This will not undergo work-shopping the same way the other projects have, instead you will be workshopping individually with me on designated workdays.


Wed, Apr 30th – first 50 images, import audio and slides              (20%)

Wed, May 7th – 2nd 50 images, sequencing                                      (20%)

Wed, May 14th – 3rd 50 images, sequencing                                    (20%)

Wed, May 21st – final viewing                                                           (40%)

We will be using an altered form of the AP writing rubric:


100      An excellent, well-organized essay (speech/power-point/movie) which discussed how British leaders have used language to attain/maintain their power.  The discussion makes liberal use of specific appropriate references from multiple sources, properly cited, to support the analysis and the argument.  Occasional mistakes need not spoil the general impression of the essay.  More important than the number of features selected are the quality and completeness of the discussion and the general coherence of the argument.


90        A good, strong essay (speech/power-point/movie) with discerning discussion of how British leaders have used language to attain/maintain their power.  The discussion is either not as sophisticated or well-developed as an 100 or not quite as well supported with textual references.  The references from the texts, properly cited, appear confident and the essay reflects more than casual familiarity with the material.


80        An adequate essay (speech/power-point/movie) with limited discussion of how British leaders have used language to attain/maintain their power.  The discussion may be uneven or may be more descriptive than analytical.  The essay includes specific, accurate, and relevant references, although perhaps scanty, to support the argument.


75        A limited essay (speech/power-point/movie) which deals superficially, or in a limited way with how British leaders have used language to attain/maintain their power.  In general the support from reference sources is weak, possibly misconstrued, inappropriate, and/or not properly cited.  The answer tends to rely on description, narration, or summarization.  Alternatively, the student may write a good essay (speech/power-point/movie) reflecting knowledge of the material but have no citations.


70        The student turns in a paper (speech/power-point/movie) of the appropriate length, but presents a vague or weak discussion.  Statements may be very general or irrelevant.  The student has citations but shows very limited comprehension of the reference sources, or has no citations at all.


60        The student attempts to address in their (speech/power-point/movie) how British leaders have used language to attain/maintain their power, but is not able to write any meaningful discussion.  The response may consist of a collection of information which is incoherent or which merely restates the question.  Although no substantive argument is presented, the essay does contain some correct information relevant to the assignment.  The student may demonstrate no understanding of the reference sources or may demonstrate a complete misunderstanding.  The citations may be individual words/phrases randomly selected or non-existent.


50        The paper (speech/power-point/movie) is totally irrelevant, totally incorrect, or merely restates the assignment.  The student demonstrates no understanding of the reference sources.



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