Seminar: a group of advanced students studying a subject under a professor, each doing some original research, and all exchanging results by informal lectures, reports, and discussions.
--Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged), 1971
In addition to the reading of primary texts, you will read, not only material bearing directly on those texts, but material of a more general historical-social nature having to do with the writing and reception of courtly literature in the fifteenth centu ry. I intend to discuss with you
The test on the Chaucer materials (Monday, 3 February) will include material read and discussed during the first three weeks of classes. Although three weeks is one fifth of the course, the test will count 15% (rather than 20). The rest of the grade wil l be made up of attendance and participation (10%), a short paper, due around the middle of the term (15%), a final paper, due during the penultimate week of classes (30%), and a final exam (30%).
The order in which we will deal with the texts will be:
-The Plowman's Tale
-The Letter of Cupid
-The Complaint of the Black Knight
-La Belle Dame Sans Mercy
-The Cuckoo and the Nightingale;
In all cases, you will be expected to find for yourself some context for the works we are reading (be not dismayed: you are learning or have learned how to do this in Bibliography. The two courses are intended to work together to some degree). Do not c ome to class (in fact, do not read a text) without first finding out something about the text you are reading. I will provide further backgrounds (and nonce handouts) in class.
Once we get into the Chaucerians, we will also start talking about Chaucer's reputation before and after his death, his place in English literature, his linguistic and literary legacy, and the changes that took place in the makeup and tastes of the readin g public in the course of the fifteenth century. We will also devote some time to consideration of imitation/adaptation/inspiration. Some of the material for these discussions is listed on the preliminary reading list I passed out.
Much of the material in this course is humorous. Some of the humor in intentional; in other cases, the ineptness of the imitation is itself enough to make you smile. If you treat this course like a monster that is out to get you instead of a feast to wh ich you are an invited guest, much of the humor will be wasted on you (and the classes will be a bore). You will work hard in this course, but you are also supposed to have a good time. We have a lot of interesting and entertaining literature to read to gether. Don't spoil it by sitting in the corner at the party. Come talk to me, and talk to one another.
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