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 Riverside Chaucer is the standard scholarly edition, and there is also an edition of the Canterbury Tales extracted from it. 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 (even the assigned textbook is missing one or two). 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.
If you have a digital version of the textbook, it is a good idea to print out a copy of the text we are studying whilst we are Zooming so that you do not have to swap between the Zoom screen and the text.
The class will have meetings on Zoom every Wednesday at 12:30. These meetings will last approximately 30-45 minutes and will consist of a combination of lecture and question/discussion time. The remainder of our assigned class time is intended for asynchronous work, especially on the Canvas discussion forum. Attendance at the meetings is not required; however, if you do not attend, you are encouraged to watch the recordings, which will be posted on Canvas shortly after the session. The Zoom link and will be available on the Canvas course site. Attendance at the Zoom meetings constitutes your permission for the meeting to be recorded and made available only through the Canvas course site.
Your grade will consist of the following elements: posts to an online forum, multiple short annotation and editing exercises, and a final essay. All quotations from The Canterbury Tales must be in the original Middle English. Assignments with quotations in translation will not be accepted.
You will be required to contribute four posts on the Canvas discussion forum in response to prompts I provide. Additional posts (including the introduction of new topics) and responses to earlier posts will count towards your grade for the forum. Full details are given in a separate forum assignment on Canvas.
There will be one annotation exercise and two editing exercises spaced throughout the semester. These exercises are designed to build close reading and editing skills, and to prepare you to produce a more professional-looking final essay. These exercises will be partially graded by me and partially graded by you using a rubric designed to assess your understanding of the text and your skills in editing you own critical writing.
The final essay will be based on independent research and will summarise your understanding of several tales within The Canterbury Tales or the work as a whole. The prompt will be available on Canvas about halfway through the semester.
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 any 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.
Annotation and editing assignments, as well as the final essay, are due on the dates given on the class schedule. If you have a problem meeting the assignment deadline, please contact me. If you do not contact me, I will not provide as much feedback, and you may only receive partial credit.
Forum posts should be submitted at least 24 hours prior to our scheduled discussion of the subject matter. If your post is a response to our discussion, it may be submitted up to a week after the discussion begins. Posts submitted on or after the date of the final exam will not be counted.
In some semesters opportunities may arise for non-required activities such as guest lectures, and I will offer extra credit for attendance at or participation in these activities. I will always offer this extra credit to the entire class. Because my time commitments do not allow me to grade extra assignments, I do not award extra credit to individual students for any reason. I keep to this policy very strictly.
In order to receive full credit in the course, you must do the readings in advance, be prepared to discuss the texts in our online forum, and complete all assignments. You are not required to attend synchronous Zoom sessions, but, if you do not, it is highly recommended that you watch the recordings, which will be posted on Canvas.
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. I reserve the right to ask you to leave Zoom sessions, ban you from the forum, and/or impose grade penalties if you cause disruptions of any sort to the learning environment.
To receive a passing grade in this class, you must abide by the terms of the code of conduct outlined below. This code is based on the one produced by Northeastern University’s Feminist Coding Collective, adapted by Ryan Cordell.
See further the statement on Diversity and Inclusion below.
Throughout the class, you are expected to conduct yourself professionally. This means respecting your professor and your classmates by producing work that is well-edited and free from spelling and grammatical errors. My own posts on the forum should be a standard for you to emulate (which is not to say that I will never make mistakes). Putting effort into polishing your writing is a professional courtesy to others; not doing so is insulting.
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.
CSUN values an inclusive learning environment, where we respect the varied perspectives and experiences of a diverse community. Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining a respectful space to express their opinions. Professional courtesy and consideration for our classroom community are especially important with respect to topics dealing with differences in race, colour, gender and gender identity/expression, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability, and age.
As a “responsible employee” at CSUN, I am required by federal and state laws to report incidences of harassment and discrimination to the campus Title IX Coordinator if they are disclosed to me. If you have experienced harassment or discrimination and do not want the Title IX Coordinator notified, instead of disclosing the experience to me, you can speak confidentially with CSUN’s Care Advocate by calling (818) 677-7492. For more information regarding your university rights and options, please visit the University’s Title IX website at http://www.csun.edu/title-ix.
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 completing the reading by the date for which the reading is assigned. With the exception of the Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, all readings described "X's Tale" include any associated prologues or epilogues. Where line numbers are given, they are preceded by a Roman numeral indicating the Fragment of The Canterbury Tales where the tale can be found. Prior to the scheduled class, you should read the relevant posts on the Canvas discussion forum. You are encouraged to read ahead so that you don't get stuck in a crunch between Monday and Wednesday. In addition to the assigned readings on the schedule, you will receive regular announcements of supplementary videos and/or presentations through Canvas.
Reading: To Rosamunde" and "Adam scriveyn"
Reading: The General Prologue, ll. I.1-541
Background Reading: Mapping Chaucer’s Life
Reading: The General Prologue, ll. I.542-848
Reading: The Knight’s Tale, Part 1
Reading: The Knight’s Tale, Part 2
Background Reading: Sisterhood and Brotherhood in the Knight’s Tale
Reading: The Knight’s Tale, Parts 3-4
Background Reading: Suffering Bodies in the Knight’s Tale in the Knight’s Tale
Reading: The Tale, ll. I.3109-3600
Reading: The Tale, ll. I.3601-3854
Background Reading: Protest, Complaint, and Uprising in the Miller’s Tale
Reading: The Reeve’s Tale
Background Reading: Wages, Work, Wealth, and Economic Inequality in the Reeve’s Tale
Reading: The Reeve’s Tale and Cook’s Tale
Background Reading: Jokes, Jests, Pranks, and Play in the Cook’s Tale
Reading: The Wife of Bath’s Prologue
Background Reading: Love and Marriage in the Wife of Bath’s Prologue
Reading: The Wife of Bath’s Tale
Background Reading: Rape and Justice in the Wife of Bath’s Tale
Reading: The Friar’s Tale
Background Reading: The Friar’s Tale: Animals and the Question of Human Agency
Reading: The Summoner’s Tale
Background Reading: Gender and Sexual Identities in the Summoner’s Prologueand Tale
Reading: The Clerk’s Tale
Background Reading: Authority (Familial, Political, Written) in the Clerk’s Tale
Reading: The Merchant’s Tale, ll. IV.1213-1688
Background Reading: Environment, Landscape, and Nature in the Merchant’s Tale
Reading: The Merchant’s Tale, ll. IV.1689-2440
Reading: The Squire’s Tale and The Franklin’s Tale, ll. V.699-1341
Background Reading: Subsistence (Land and Food) in the Squire’s Tale
Reading: The Franklin’s Tale, ll. V.1342-1625
Background Reading: Emotion, Feeling, Intensity, Pleasure, and the Franklin’s Tale
Reading: The Pardoner’s Tale
Background Reading: The Body and Its Politics in the Pardoner’s Tale
Reading: The Prioress’ Tale
Background Reading: The Prioress’s Tale: Relating to the Past, Imagining the Past, Using the Past
Reading: The Tale of Sir Thopas
Background Reading: Imagining the World in Maps and Stories: Sir Thopas
Reading: The Monk’s Tale, ll. VII.1889-2182, 2631-2766, and the Nun’s Priest’s Tale, ll. VII.2767-3171
Background Reading: The Monk’s Tale: Disability/Ability
Reading: The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, ll. VII.3171-3462
Background Reading: The Nun’s Priest’s Tale: Entertainment versus Education
Reading: Chaucer’s Retraction (end of Fragment X)
|MON||12/14||Final essay due|