Chaucer is at once one of the greatest and the most dynamic of English poets. His best-known work, The Canterbury Tales_, shows him as a master of narrative and of stylistic variety which has few rivals. His minor works focus on themes of particular interest in present-day criticism, such as the cultural formations embodied in the literary landscape, gender politics, and the workings of dreams and the imagination. In this course we will explore Chaucer’s most important themes and literary strategies by reading a selection of The Canterbury Tales and some of Chaucer’s shorter poems in his original Middle English. The scope of the course also embraces the study of Chaucer’s sources and literary analogues and will reflect on his influence on later writers.
Note: If the Matador Bookstore has not ordered enough texts, you can order a copy (paper or digital) from Broadview Press by clicking the image.
I am frequently asked whether another edition of the Canterbury Tales is suitable for this course. I certainly understand the impulse to save money if you already have a copy. However, this must be balanced against the ways in which you will be disadvantaged in your learning. The The Riverside Chaucer is the standard scholarly edition, and there is also an edition of the Canterbury Tales extracted from it. The assigned textbook is an extract from The Riverside Chaucer, which is the standard edition for scholars and students. Scholarly literature inevitably refers to this edition, as do certain essential tools to help you learn to read Chaucer’s Middle English. Because of the nature of Chaucer’s works, some editions actually give different readings of the text. Although, most other editions, including the assigned textbook, will not differ significantly in their readings of the text, they will differ in their page numbers. This may lead to difficulties in following class discussion. Some editions offering extracts of the Canterbury Tales may not have all the tales included in the syllabus. For these reasons, I highly recommend using the assigned edition, although either of the two named above are acceptable.
In addition to the assigned textbook, many course readings will be made available through the class Canvas site.
Your grade will consist of four elements: Preparation and Participation, a series of text analyses, a midterm exam, and two essays. Important: All quotations from the Middle English texts must be made in Middle English, not in translation. Assignments quoting the text from a translation will not be accepted and will be receive an automatic F.
Preparation and Participation reflects my assessment of your in-class contribution. I will assign points based factors such as on-time attendance, classroom participation/disruption, bringing your textbook to class, and so on. For further information, see under Class Policies below.
These assignments are designed to increase your engagement with the language of the text, as well as to help you to learn Middle English. The assignments will ask you to perform a series of tasks: identifying examples of particular grammatical forms, looking up words in the Middle English Dictionary, or thinking about the implications of certain words or phrases. Some questions will also relate be designed to engage you with certain patterns of reading and writing scholarship about Chaucer.
This is not a true midterm, but rather an exam to make sure that you are familiar with the many basic technical terms and concepts relevant to the understanding of Chaucer, as well as your understanding of the basic plots of the Canterbury Tales.
Essays will be approximately 5-6 pages on a topic of your choice from a number of prompts.
By enrolling in this course you agree to be bound for the purposes of this class by the policies below, which serve as a formal legal agreement. You may reject these policies by dropping the class within the time allotted by the University.
Grades are A, B, C, D, or F and can receive a plus or minus. To receive a grade other than a WU, you must have completed more than half the coursework (no exceptions).
Since students in English courses are expected by society at large to be acquiring writing skills, I privilege grammar, spelling, and editing in my grading. Work containing distracting numbers of typos, spelling mistakes, or grammatical errors will be graded primarily on these criteria on a sliding scale which may supersede the percentages given in the Coursework and Grading section above. That is, the more distracting these factors are, the more they are worth (up to 100% of your grade). A rough guide to what is distracting is any sign that might give an employer pause when evaluating a job application.
Although I may award extra credit for some non-required activities (such as attendance at guest lectures), I regret that I am unable to grade assignments beyond those required for class in order to award extra credit.
Enrolling in this class requires a commitment to participate in a community of learners in which you agree to contribute to and not to detract from the learning environment. In order to receive full credit for participation, you must do the readings in advance, bring assigned textbooks to each class, be prepared to discuss the materials, and complete all assignments. You must also arrive to class on time and remain in the class room for the duration of the class period. For disruptive behaviour, I reserve the right to increase the proportion of your final grade allotted to participation, as I feel appropriate.
Ringing and/or vibrating cell phones in class disrupt my concentration and that of your fellow students, inevitably lowering the quality of the learning environment. If your cell phone goes off in class, I reserve the right to impose penalties to your grade or to ask you to leave the classroom, as I deem appropriate. If your cell phone disrupts my thought process as I am teaching, I may call a “class break” in order to recover from the distraction. It is in your interest to remember that you will have deprived your fellow classmates of this class time.
If you have a computer or smart phone in the classroom, it will be very tempting to check your e-mail, read Facebook, or generally surf the web for purposes unrelated to the class. Resist. If I catch you engaged in these activities, I reserve the right to impose penalties to your grade or ask you to leave the classroom, as I deem appropriate. Please be aware that this has the same effect on my teaching as cell phones and may also trigger the “class break” response.
It is extremely important that all aspects of your work are come by honourably. Efforts to gain an advantage not given to all students are dishonest and regarded as an extremely serious matter by the academic community. Consequences range from probation to expulsion. University policy stipulates that plagiarism, the submission of another person’s work as your own, is a violation of academic honesty, even if it arises out of ignorance or oversight, rather than deliberate cheating. Enrolling in this class means that you agree to abide by my decision regarding the appropriate action to take in cases of academic dishonesty. If you have any questions about plagiarism, paraphrasing, quoting, or collaboration, please consult me.
Students should make sure that they follow the university’s add/drop deadlines, outlined in the Schedule of Classes. According to university policy, drops are only allowed after the set date when “a) there is a serious and compelling reason–specifically the student’s emotional or physical health or financial condition is clearly in jeopardy, and b) there is no viable alternative–including repeating the class”. Students will need to provide documentation on official letterhead–a letter, on official stationery, from a doctor or an employer–to support their reasons. No adds will be allowed unless a student can provide documented proof–e.g., a clerical error–for the reason for the tardiness. Please make sure to meet the deadline!
The standard grade if a student fails to complete the work for a class is a “WU”. This is the equivalent of an “F”, but the grade may be changed if you re-take the course at a future time. This grade is also assigned to students who have not attended after the first few classes of the semester but have not officially “withdrawn” from the course.
I may assign an Incomplete (“I”) if and only if you meet all of the following conditions:
Once you take an incomplete, you have a year from the date recorded on the form to complete the requirements of the course and have your grade changed; therefore, you should submit work early enough to allow me to grade your work and fill out the necessary forms to assign you a new grade.
Keep in mind that, after you take an Incomplete, any grading of your work becomes an added burden on my busy timetable during the following year. Therefore you should not expect the normal amount of comments on your work or any extra teaching beyond my normal office hours.
You are responsible for having completed the reading by the dates indicated. We sometimes spend a little longer or a little less time than anticipated on individual texts, so, if you print this syllabus or miss class, make sure to check this page in case their are any adjustments. In all cases the assignment to read “The X’s Tale” includes any prologues or epilogues to that pilgrim’s tale.
|Wednesday 6||Reading Middle English, The General Prologue|
|Wednesday 13||The General Prologue and The Knight’s Tale|
|Wednesday 20||The Knight’s Tale|
|Wednesday 27||The Miller’s Tale|
|Wednesday 4||The Reeve’s Tale and The Cook’s Tale|
|Wednesday 11||The Wife of Bath’s Prologue|
|Wednesday 18||The Wife of Bath’s Tale and the Friar’s and the Summoner’s Tales|
|Wednesday 25||The Clerk’s Tale and the Merchant’s Tale|
|Wednesday 1||The Squire’s Tale|
|Wednesday 8||The Franklin’s Tale|
|Wednesday 15||The Pardoner’s Tale|
|Wednesday 22||The Prioress’ Tale, the Tale of Sir Thopas, and the Tale of Melibee|
|Wednesday 29||The Monk’s Tale and the Nun’s Priest’s Tale|
|Wednesday 6||Chaucer’s Apology and Chaucer's other works|
|Wednesday 13||Final essay due by midnight|