English 211

Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Spring 2017 Nolan, Maura
TTh 2-3:30 106 Mulford

Book List

Chaucer, Geoffrey: The Canterbury Tales


This course will introduce specialists and non-specialists alike to the close reading of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  You need have no previous experience with Middle English; indeed, if you do have previous experience, you may find that Chaucer challenges you in ways you aren't expecting!  We will start with the General Prologue and read the Tales through to the Retractions, paying attention along the way to who Chaucer was, why he was writing, what he was reading, where he situated his tales, when everything takes place, and above all, HOW Chaucer's literary art functions at the level of the word, the clause, the sentence, the line, the stanza, all the way up to the idea of the Tales as a whole.  A central question that we will address will be the question of style.  Can we use the word "style" to describe Chaucer's artfulness?  What does "style" mean in Middle English and in the classical rhetoric from which Chaucer got many of his ideas about literature?  What do we mean by style in the present day?  Is it a useful category of literary analysis?  What is the relationship of style to theory and to history?  In the simplest terms, what enables a critic to identify a style as characteristic of an author? Of an era? Of a place?  Students will write short papers and exercises rather than a seminar paper, though the option of a long paper is open to anyone wishing to write one.

If you want to get started, you can get Jill Mann's Penguin edition of the Canterbury Tales.  It is also available as a Kindle edition.  **However** Buyers beware!  When you go to the listing on Amazon for the Mann edition, and click on "Kindle edition," you are taken to a 99 cent edition by someone I've never heard of.   DO NOT  get this edition.  Instead, search the Kindle store using this search string, "Chaucer Canterbury Tales Middle English."  The Mann Kindle edition should come up in this search.  You will know it is the right edition because it is the one costing   $3.99 .  Or use this link:  https://www.amazon.com/Canterbury-Tales-Penguin-Classics-ebook/dp/B002RI9O6Y/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1474606938&sr=1-1&keywords=chaucer+canterbury+tales+Middle+English . (Working as of Sept. 22, 2016). If you still can't find it, email me and I'll unearth it again.  They don't seem to want to sell this book, for some reason.  No doubt they are worried that worldwide demand would crash their servers if they made it too easy to acquire.

This course satisfies the Group 2 (Medieval through Sixteenth Century) requirement.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

fall, 2022



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