English 414: Chaucer

About the Course

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.

Course Objectives

  • Acquire a basic reading knowledge of Chaucerian Middle English.
  • Acquire knowledge of the historical and cultural background which informs Chaucer’s works, as well as a familiarity with the issues that have been discussed in Chaucer scholarship.
  • Learn to read and discuss Chaucer’s works for enjoyment and for their insight into the human condition.
  • Demonstrate the skills associated with the professional practices of literary criticism, including writing and formatting conventions, research skills, and methods of analysis.