HL4002: the canterbury tales

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Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is not only among the best-known English poems but also one of the most diverse, containing within it the full range of medieval genres, from romances and saints’ lives to blood-soaked tales of revenge and (yes) a racy joke or two. The poem has been compared to a gothic cathedral in its vastness as well as its ability to accommodate seemingly contrary elements and styles, from the grand to the grotesque. Reading the Tales is an ideal introduction to the complex thought, culture, and history of the late-medieval period—an age that was profoundly different from our own yet trembling on the cusp of modernity. You will be reading in Middle English, but no prior experience is expected or required.
Course Outline




13 January

Setting out

The General Prologue

20 January

Noble designs

The Knight’s Tale

27 January

The Miller’s challenge

The Miller’s Prologue and Tale; The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale; The Cook’s Prologue and Tale

3 February

The saint who did nothing

The Man of Law’s Introduction, Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

10 February

“Who painted the lion?”

The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale; The Shipman’s Prologue and Tale

17 February

Settling scores

The Friar’s Prologue and Tale; The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale

24 February

Two marriages from hell

The Clerk’s Prologue and Tale; The Merchant’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

2 March


Recess Week

9 March

The imitators

The Squire’s Introduction and Tale; The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale

16 March

Questionable morals

The Physician’s Tale; The Pardoner’s Introduction, Prologue and Tale

23 March

“Lat the chaf be stille”

The Prioress’s Prologue and Tale;

The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas; The Monk’s Prologue and Tale; The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

30 March

Lose your illusion

The Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale; The Cannon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale; The Manciple’s Prologue and Tale

6 April

Chaucer repents (or else doesn’t)

The Parson’s Prologue and Tale; Chaucer’s Retraction

13 April

Receptions: Whose Chaucer? (essay due)

Tale of Beryn and additional short excerpts (provided by instructor)

Weekly Study Questions 10%

Scholarly Essay (~2000 words) 20%

Presentations 10%

Seminar Participation 10%

Final Exam 50%
Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales, ed. Jill Mann (London: Penguin, 2005).

ISBN-10: 014042234X

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