English 111


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
1 Fall 2022 Nolan, Maura
MW 5-6:30 Wheeler 212


In the late fourteenth century, Geoffrey Chaucer created a fictional pilgrimage in which travelers competed with one another to tell a tale “of best sentence and moost solaas”—meaning, a tale that best combines moral seriousness with pleasure.  The resulting collection of stories, the Canterbury Tales, will provide our text for this class.  Chaucer experimented with a wide range of genres and styles in the Tales; you will encounter medieval romance, fabliau (a kind of bawdy comic story), saints' lives, beast fables, autobiographical prologues, and more.  In the midst of this formal diversity, we find themes that tie the story collection together:  the role of women in literature and the world; the nature and meaning of vernacular poetry; the psychology of religious experience; the effect of power on human relationships; the place of art in society; the nature of causality and human free will; and more.  We will read the Canterbury Tales from start to finish, focusing on close reading in order to address these themes.  You will work in groups as well as individually as you learn to read Middle English (no prior experience necessary).  And we will read the Tales out loud as much as we can! 

Please note that the text for this class, Jill Mann’s edition of the Canterbury Tales, published by Penguin, is also available as an e-book from Amazon.  HOWEVER, when you look up the book on Amazon, the Kindle book linked to the Mann edition is NOT the actual ebook.  You must search for “penguin canterbury tales kindle”; the edition then appears, and it costs approximately $15.  If the ebook you are buying is free, or only a few dollars, it is NOT the edition you should buy.  Feel free to email me if you are having trouble finding the proper ebook.     

This class satisfies the pre-1800 requirement for the English major.

Other Recent Sections of This Course

spring, 2022



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