Latin 433/533 (Medieval Latin): Winter, 2010

Latin 433/533 (Medieval Latin): Winter, 2010

(Painting, apparently by Nikolai Bessonov showing question under torture of a suspected witch; the notary, left, is writing down the proceedings in the protocol,
while the seemingly bored inquisitor with the tonsure watches from the center; note the weights on the floor ready to be attached to the feet in the case of recalcitrance)

Instructor: Christopher S. Mackay
E-Mail: (
Office/phone: Tory 2-54/492-3344
Office hours: MWF 12-1 (making an appointment is a good idea) or by appointment

Purpose of the course

  1. To give students a sense of late medieval Latin through reading the 1486 witch hunting textbook, the Malleus Maleficarum.
  2. Constant comparison of the Latinity of the text with “proper” Latin will lead to a better understanding of of advanced Latin grammar.
  3. Learn about late medieval notions of Satansim in general and the views of Henry Institoris in particular.
  4. Learn to read an early modern text in the original (Gothic) font, orthography and punctuation.
NB The Malleus treats a number of topics pertaining to sexuality in fairly explicit terms, so students should be prepared to speak candidly about matters that are potentially embarrassing (though it should also be noted that the content is pretty silly, too).

Text book

(available at the campus bookstore)
Adriano Cappelli, Dizionario di abbreviature latine ed italiane (Ulrico Hoepli, 2005) Christopher S. Mackay, The Hammer of Witches: A Complete Translation (CUP, 2009) Two-vol. coursepack: Excerpts of the Malleus Maleficarum (text and commentary)

Course procedure

The first ten weeks or so will be spent reading the excerpts in the coursepack. The last three weeks or so will be spent on a handout of the original text. Students are expected to prepare the reading in advance, being prepared to discuss all aspects of the text (translation, grammar, content, transcription) in class.

Class participation

Attendance is obligatory and attendance is taken every day. There is no reason to be elsewhere. Students are allowed one unexcused absence for the term. Each unexcused absence beyond that results in a reduction of the final grade by one step (e.g., a B will become s B-). Acceptable excuses include official school activities that necessitate absence from campus (e.g., participition in university sports events or debate team), funerals of relatives (with proof presented in the form of a program), major debilitating illnesses. If you have to be absent for such a reason, inform the instructor as soon as possible (in advance if possible). Having something better to do (including a job) or having something else to do for another course is not an acceptable excuse.


a) Final project (25%)
Preparation of a scholarly edition of several pages of the handwritten Nuremberg Handbook that Institoris wrote for the city council of Nuremberg in 1491 (2 pages for those taking LATIN 433; 4 pages for those taking LATIN 533). Students will be given JPEG files containing the pages, and will have to resolve the abbreviations and convert the content into the (properly punctuated) format of a modern printed text (like the excerpts in the coursepack). This is not as easy as you might imagine! or
A research paper with length varying by class (10-15 pages for those taking LATIN 433; 15-20 pages for those taking LATIN 533). Students may write on a topic of their own choosing, and the paper is due on the last day of term (suggested topics will be provided later in the term).
NB See discussion of plagiarism at the end of the syllabus.

b) Testing (75%)?
Starting on the second Monday, there will be a quiz most Mondays on the previous week’s readings (towards the end of term, a transcription exercise may be substituted); there are no make-up quizzes, and the one lowest score will be dropped (5% of overall grade). There will be one midterm (Feb. 24; 30%), and one final examination (35%; tentative date, Tuesday, April 27 at 9 am). The common final will be two hours long, and those taking credit in LATIN 508 will have an additional hour of testing on the materials not covered in class. The content of the midterm and final will be discussed in class (and what is expected will be made clear from the quizzes).

Deferred Final Exam

The sole date for taking a deferred final examination is May 3, 2010.

Student Accomodation

NB Students who require accommodation due to a disability involving mobility, vision, hearing, learning or mental or physical health should discuss their needs with Specialized Support and Disability Services (SUB 2-800; 492-3381 [phone]/492-7269 [TTY]).

Nine-point conversion

Students will receive a percentage score for all graded work. At the end of term these percentage marks will be weighted on the scale indicated above to give an overall percentage mark. This will then be converted to the letter-grade system according to the following equivalents.

Letter Grade Percentage
A+ 100-97
A 96-93
A- 92-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
69-67 D+
66-60 D
59 or lower F

Academic Dishonesty

This is a big no-no. The University has the following statement on how it deals with academic dishonesty.

"The University of Alberta is committed to the highest standards of academic integrity and honesty. Students are expected to be familiar with these standards regarding academic honesty and to uphold the policies of the University in this respect. Students are particularly urged to familiarize themselves with the provisions of the Code of Student Behavior and avoid any behavior which could potentially result in suspicions of cheating, plagiarism, misrepresentation of facts and/or participation in an offence. Academic dishonesty is a serious offence and can result in suspension or expulsion from the University." (U of A Calendar §23.4.2c)

Cheating can consist of a number of offenses, which can be summarized (for present purposes) as

  1. getting information during and exam from an impermissible source
  2. taking an exam for someone else or having someone else take an exam for you
  3. plagiarism
  4. submitting as one's own work that has received "substantial editorial or compositional assistance" from someone else (i.e., if you get someone else to work up your ideas for you)
  5. submitting in one course written work (or a substantial portion thereof) submitted for credit in a previous course.
For details, see Code of Student Behavior §30.3.2(2)a-d.

Be particularly careful about plagiarism, which is defined as "submit[ting] the words, ideas, images or data of another person as the student's own" (Code of Student Behaviour §30.3.2(1)). Students sometimes have trouble determining how and when to cite ideas that they have read in books (or at times heard in class). As the consequences for plagiarism can be dire, it's always best to consult the instructor in cases of doubt.

Like the University, I have a zero-tolerance policy for plagiarism (as well as cheating). I will not hesitate to seek the highest possible penalty against anyone caught committing these offenses or helping others to commit them. Ignorance of what constitutes academic offenses is not an acceptable defense. Refer to the Code of Student Behaviour in the Calendar (pages 743-766) for a full description of academic offenses and their possible penalties. If you have any questions, see me or refer to the University's "Don't cheat" sheet.

For Those Who Don't Like the Syllabus

The University of Alberta cares deeply about being internally recognized for excellence in course information delivery, and accordingly has issued the following regulation, presumably on the grounds that after twenty-two years of university-level instruction, I might not know how to draw up a suitable syllabus:

Every course outline should contain the following statement: "Policy about course outlines can be found in §23.4(2) of the University Calendar" (Calendar §23.4(2).b).
You can't say you weren't warned.
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