ENGL4240: Chaucer


Father of English literature, writer of bawdy tales, creator of lifelike pilgrim characters: Geoffrey Chaucer is all this and so much more.  This class will introduce you to Middle English literature and its historical context through the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, including The Canterbury Tales and selections from his minor poetry.  Alongside issues of genre, poetic form, and relationships to earlier writers, we will pay particular attention to Chaucer's fictional narrators, his treatment of female characters, his construction of masculine subjects, and his exploration of ethical impasses that arise in the process of meaning-making through reading. In addition to Chaucer's own work, we may read selections from his influences, contemporaries, and later imitators, all of which illustrate the processes of imitation, adaptation, and transformation characteristic of Middle English literature. We will also emphasize - and practice in formal essays -- different ways to approach Chaucer's works. We will spend the first weeks of the semester learning how to read Middle English; language instruction will begin on the first day. Evaluation will include translation quizzes, formal essays, informal written responses, and examinations.

Required Texts

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales (Broadview, ed. Boenig and Taylor). Be sure to get the FULL Canterbury Tales (first or second edition is fine, with blue or light blue spines), NOT The Canterbury Tales: A Selection (the abridged version: same editors and same press, but with a brown spine).
  • Chaucer, Dream Visions and Other Poems (Norton, ed. Lynch)
  • additional material will be made available online and via <emma>. Please budget for printing costs, as I will require you to print some items.
  • MLA Handbook (7th ed, 2009). [I may update this to the 8th edition so we can discuss the changes to the style guide - stay tuned!]

Recommended Texts

(not at the bookstore, but good to have to hand)

Please check the English department course listings page for time/room information.

Semesters taught: