ENG 427 invites students to engage selections from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Texts will include the more familiar, like the Knight's Tale and the Wife of Bath's Tale, but also some less familiar elegiac, philosophic, and comic tales. Chaucer will be read in the original Middle English, providing students a chance to engage rigorously with one of the most influential late medieval English authors.
The course investigates important interpretations of Chaucer’s work produced in our own time by scholars who read Chaucerian texts quite differently. This means that besides working on Middle English for the term (to gain a sense of its difference from Modern English but also its sound and poetic effects), students will gain some exposure to and negotiate a range of interpretations found within contemporary Chaucerian literary criticism.
Close reading, discussion, quizzes, papers, and some informal writing will provide the basis for assessment in the course. Discussion, punctuated with occasional lectures, will focus most class sessions. A few lectures will provide literary, cultural, archival, and historical frameworks and will examine linguistic features of texts; however, most work in class--once students gain familiarity with the Middle English--will be discussion-based. We will probe the text, and our own interpretations, locating key interpretative questions and reflecting on our own assumptions from several different analytical perspectives.
Literature, Pre-1500 courses focus on writings produced from the Anglo-Saxon to late medieval periods to foster familiarity with key works in British and American literary history. Literary history illustrates how literary works reflect, address, and resist the social and political environments in which they are produced as well as other works that have preceded them. The study of early periods in particular sensitizes readers to historical transformations of the language itself.