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ENGLISH 4SD3 Sentenced To Death (C01)

Academic Year: Fall 2018

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Jeffery Donaldson


Office: Chester New Hall 308

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 24132


Office Hours: Tuesdays & Wednesdays 10:30-11:30am

Course Objectives:

This course combines a creative writing initiative with the study of grammar, syntax, rhetoric, and the expressive potential of language’s most familiar unit of meaning, the sentence.  Each week students will write sentences, then take them apart like a watch, study their grammatical components, their syntax and mood, their function in relation to larger and smaller contexts of meaning.  No prior understanding of the parts of speech is required; we will study these in context and gradually build a vocabulary and understanding of essential grammatical elements and their uses.  Students at the end of the term will be better masters of their own language, and better writers, more agile and precise in articulating their thoughts, freer in their choice of writing style, and more sensitive to the rhetorical and conceptual range of words in sequence. 


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:


Max Morenberg, Doing Grammar

Method of Assessment:


10 Weekly single page assignments    50%

Essay (2000 words)                            25%

Grammar Quiz                                    25%


While we will focus each week on particular aspects of the sentence, students will submit a full grammatical breakdown of the parts of speech of the main sentence assigned.  They will also submit their own example (or examples) of sentences along corresponding lines. 

The essay will provide students with an opportunity to inquire into the full rhetorical, semiotic, and semantic potential of a single sentence of their own choosing.  The sentence in question will be proposed by mid-term. 

The exam will challenge students with a series of relatively simple grammatical puzzles in a multiple-choice format (for once, perhaps, appropriate in this instance). 

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Week  1           Sept 7              Why do we write in sentences? 

                                                How subjects try to get to objects via verbs

            2          Sept 14            The carpenter’s toolbox:  parts of speech

            3          Sept 21            The carpenter’s toolbox:  parts of speech                           

            4          [Sept 28]         [The carpenter’s toolbox:  parts of speech]                              

            5          Oct 5               Who did what: Agency and action in subjects and verbs

            Mid-term recess Oct 8 - 14                                     

            6          Oct 19             Knowing when a verb is a verb                                       

            7          Oct 26             Don’t be so accusative

                                                The grammatical object in relation to transitive and intransitive verb                                       

            8          Nov 2              How to get where you’re going:  phrases and clauses                                           

            9          Nov 9              How to get where you’re going:  phrases and clauses                                  

            10        Nov 16            How to get where you’re going:  phrases and clauses  

            11        Nov 23            “Can’t a sentence just be left alone?”  The grammatical moods.

                                                Examples in the indicative, interrogative, imperative moods

            12        Nov 30            “God save the …”:  a fond farewell to the subjunctive

                                                The British national anthem