HL4002: the canterbury tales



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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


Week

Topics

Readings

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


None

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)



Assessment
Weekly Study Questions 10%

Scholarly Essay (~2000 words) 20%

Presentations 10%

Seminar Participation 10%



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

ISBN-10: 014042234X


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