We will spend the first week or two (or as long as it takes) reading some background material and laying the groundwork for a real understanding of Chaucer's work. During the third week of classes each student will take an oral examination on t
he pronunciation of Chaucer's English (in my office) as a way of learning the sound system of Middle English quickly. The examination will consist of quotation (i.e., by heart) of the first 18 lines of the General Prologue in late fourteenth-cen
tury English. The pronunciation exam is worth 10% of the final grade. A further 10% of the grade will be made up of class participation. This includes more than attendance or even answering questions in class; it involves taking an active part
in every aspect of the course. A 1-2 page analysis of a Middle English word will constitute 10% of the grade, and an abstract + bibliography (10%) and a 2500 word paper on the Troilus (30%) will, together, be worth 35%. The final exam is worth
35% of the total.
Within the coming week or so you will receive a high-frequency word list as well as a bibliography to get you started in the library. This is decidedly not a one-book course. You will be expected to make regular use of the library and
to evolve systems so that the books there are available to all of you when you need them.
If the class is interested, we could take a trip to the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia, where fragments of an important Chaucer manuscript (as well as manuscripts of works by his contemporaries) are waiting to be seen. Alternatively, we co uld go to the premier medieval museum collection in America, housed at The Cloisters, on a bluff overlooking the Hudson river in New York. That trip could be combined with a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where the medieval collection is guaran teed to stagger you. A medieval meal together, cooperatively prepared, is another option.
The goal of this course is to live in another world: in another time, another place, another social class. I am here to facilitate your travels in any way I can. If time travel appeals to you, if evesdropping (or voyeurism), word games, social games, wit or scatology or simply great literature appeal to you, plan to work hard but at the same time to savor the special pleasure that only academic endeavor can provide. Chaucer is one of the greatest writers in the English language; he certainly has the best sense of humor. If you don't have a good time while you sweat, you have no one to blame but yourself.
Weeks 1-2 (16-25 January):
To give you a handle on all of the material in this section and make the reading a little easier and more understandable, there will be study questions and directions for excerpted reading on my home page (see handout on electronic study aids).
This material will provide the basic framework for your reading and the vocabulary for our discussions of it, so it is important that you understand it. Other handouts (a slew of them) will come your way at regular intervals.
Week 3 (beginning 5 February):
Prologue to The Legend of Good Women (Study questions on home page)
During this week you will come to my office and recite the opening of the General Prologue.
Weeks 4-7 (5 February to 29 February):
Troilus and Criseyde (Study questions on the home page)
We will have to read more than a book a week to finish on schedule.
On 6 February, each of you will get a Middle English word on which to prepare a 1-2 page analysis, due 29 February.
Week 8 (beginning 4 March):
Begin the General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Study questions on the home page)
Abstract and preliminary bibliography due on Troilus paper (5 March)
Here are the assignments for the second half of the semester. Bear in mind that, at this point in the course, I will expect you to know something about Chaucer the man and his life (i.e., if you haven't read carefully and consulted the front flyleaf of your text, now is the time).
N.B.: All the links to the tales are required reading.
Week 9 (beginning 18 March):
Tuesday: Roundup of Troilus & Criseyde
Thursday: General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Study questions for some of it on the home page)
Paper due on the Troilus (no extensions).
Week 10 (beginning 26 March):
Tuesday: Knight's Tale
Thursday: Knight's Tale (if we need it)
Week 11 (beginning 1 April):
Tuesday: Miller & Cook's Tale (fragment)
Thursday: Wife of Bath's Prologue
Week 12 (beginning 8 April):
Tuesday: Wife of Bath's Tale
Thursday: Clerk's Tale
Week 13 (beginning 15 April):
Tuesday: Merchant's Tale
Thursday: Franklin Tale
Week 14 (beginning 22 April):
Tuesday: Pardoner's Tale
Thursday: Prioress's Tale and Second Nun's Tale
Week 15 (beginning 29 April):
Nun's Priest's Tale
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