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Geoffrey Chaucer, "The Canterbury Tales", ed. Larry Benson
This is an introductory level course in Chaucer, which does not assume any previous acquaintance with this author, medieval literature, or the Middle English language. All works, however, will be read in Middle English, and students will be expected to spend time early in the term mastering the basics of the language.
We will chiefly be studying selections from The Canterbury Tales, beginning with a unit on background to medieval study through the General Prologue to the Tales. As your instructor, I will be providing some necessary information about culture, intellectual traditions, and social customs during Chaucer's historical period. But I don't want this to become simply a lecture course, so I will also expect each student to participate in and contribute something to class discussion; in other words, class participation counts, and regular attendance is expected.
Each week, a third hour is scheduled, which will be used for different purposes at different points in the term. During the early weeks of the semester, we will use this hour to discuss language and translation. In the middle of the semester, we will allocate some of these hours to returning papers and to addressing both writing issues and questions of substance raised by the texts we are reading. The extra hour will also give us time to visit the Special Collections Room in Clapp Library, watch videos, listen to audiotapes, and explore your questions and ideas more fully. Some class hours, specifically conceived of as "discussion sections," I think of not as regular classes formally led by me, but as opportunities for you to bring up questions, share ideas, and talk about matters both central and peripheral to Chaucer. Unless an hour is specifically designated as optional, I do expect your attendance at all three weekly course hours.
English 213 has an electronic conference, called "ENG213-F04," available on first-class. Due to copyright issues, this will be a closed conference, available exclusively to members of our class. Inside this conference, you will find several subconferences, including one devoted to discussion of Chaucer topics, one containing course materials like syllabus and assignments, one allowing you to read postings from an international Chaucer conference, one with audiovisual materials, and one that specifically requests your suggestions for the course. The reserve list is available on-line through the Wellesley College library catalog.
Each student will write three very short papers during the semester and one longer, final paper. The short "mini-papers" will be due October 8, October 29, and November 17. I will distribute specified assignments for these short papers, which may not exceed 3 pages in length (10-pitch type the smallest) (I will not read to page 4!!). No mini-paper will be accepted late except with a medical excuse.
In lieu of any one of the mini-papers, a student may submit an interpretive reading of a passage (not less than 50 lines) on tape; if this option is chosen, Iąd like the tape turned in the day before the paper is due so that I can (potentially) use it in class (anonymously, of course!). In addition, I will also accept as a substitute for any one of the mini-papers a modern parody of the tale we are reading, or an original Middle English piece of Chaucerian apocrypha. If a parody is submitted, again Iąd like it the day before the original due date. An alternate assignment (one tape, one parody) may be submitted for up to two of the mini-papers, but not for all three.
For the final paper, due December 13, I will distribute a list of possible topics, from which a student may choose but to which she will not be limited. This final paper will be around 10 pages in length. In addition, I will be testing each student orally on her command of Middle English towards the end of the first month of class, and in written translation exercises from time to time. I may also be collecting occasional in-class writing experiments. There will be no final exam.
Each mini-paper will count 10% of the final grade, the oral exam 15%, and the final paper 35%; the remaining 20% will be at my discretion, influenced by classroom discussion, graded translation exercises, and other special work in class. Please note that attendance is required and will be recorded. For a more detailed schedule of work, see the attached pages. A reserve list is posted online through the library webpage.
Assignments 1 and 2 will each count half a grade; assignments 3-6 will each count one full grade. All formal papers, taken together, will be worth 60% of your final grade. The portfolio, which will allow for some revision, will be worth another 15%. The remaining 25% of your grade will be based on your participation and contribution to other aspects of the course: editing, posting on the conference, attendance, participation in class discussion, and preparation for class. According to official College policy, the course will be graded on a curve in which the mean grade may not be higher than B+.
Tuesday, September 7: Introductory (The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse)
Wednesday, September 8: Language practice
Friday, September 10: A Beautiful Spring Day (General Prologue, lines 1-42)
Tuesday, September 14: Those who fight, those who pray (General Prologue, lines 43- 269) (226 lines)
Wednesday, September 15: Language practice
Friday, September 17: Those who sell--Scholars, Sybarites, Scoundrels, and Saints (General Prologue, lines 270-622) (352 lines)
Tuesday, September 21: Bringing up the rear (The Summoner, the Pardoner, the Host, and the Plan of Attack, lines 623-857) (234 lines)
Wednesday, September 22: Language Practice
Friday, September 24: Knight's Tale, Part 1 (496 lines)
Tuesday, September 28: Knight's Tale, Part II (526 lines)
Wednesday, September 29: Language practice (optional)
Monday, October 4: Recommended Lecture: Peter Hawkins, "The Art of Smiling," Library Lecture Room, 4:30.
Friday, October 1: Knight's Tale, Part III (602 lines).
Tuesday, October 5: Knight's Tale, Part IV (626 lines)
Wednesday, October 6: General Discussion of the Knight's Tale (pre-paper).
Friday, October 8: Miller's Prologue and Tale (mini-paper #1 due at the beginning of class). (746 lines)
*************************** FALL BREAK *************************
Tuesday, October 12: Miller's Prologue and Tale
Wednesday, October 13: No class (Monday schedule)
Friday, October 15: Reeve's Prologue; Cook's Prologue and Tale (fragment) (500 lines)
Tuesday, October 19: Paper Workshop (optional).
Wednesday, October 20: Introduction to the Man of Lawąs Tale (133 lines); meeting in Special Collections to look at early book and manuscript materials.
Friday, October 22: Finish discussion of Man of Law's Intro; start discussion of Wife of Bath's Prologue (856 lines)
Tuesday, October 26: General Discussion of Wife of Bath's Prologue, Florent (pre-paper)
Wednesday, October 27: Optional paper editing groups for people whose drafts are ready
Friday, October 29: Wife of Bath's Tale/John Gower's Tale of Florent (877 lines) (mini-paper #2 due at the beginning of class).
Tuesday, November 2: Clerk's Prologue and Tale (1244 lines)
Wednesday, November 3: Clerk's Prologue and Tale
Friday, November 5: Clerk's Prologue and Tale
Tuesday, November 9: Tanner conference‹NO CLASS.
Wednesday, November 10: Merchant's Prologue, Tale, Epilogue (1228 lines)
Friday, November 11: Merchant's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue
Tuesday, November 16: Merchant's Prologue, Tale, Epilogue; visit from Linne
[Required Lecture by Linne Mooney, title TBA, Library Lecture Room, 4:30]
Wednesday, November 17: Merchant's Prologue, Tale, Epilogue (mini-paper #1 due at the beginning of class).
Friday, November 19: Franklin's Prologue and Tale (start on second column of page 177, with the dialogue between the Squire and Franklin) (952 lines)
Tuesday, November 23: Franklin's Prologue and Tale Wednesday
Nov. 24: Class cancelled for Thanksgiving
************************* THANKSGIVING *************************
Tuesday, November 30: Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue and Tale (682 lines)
Wednesday, December 1: Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue, and Tale
Friday, December 3: Pasolini's Pardoner (optional--not for the squeamish)
Tuesday., December 7: Beast Fable, Part 1: The Nun's Priest's Prologue, Tale, Epilogue (696 lines)
Wednesday, December 8: Beast Fable, Part 2: The Manciple's Prologue and Tale (362 ll.)
Friday, December 10: Last class. Finishing up. Parson's Prologue (74 lines)
Monday, December 13: Final paper due.
Ye knowe ek that in forme of speche is chaunge
Withinne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden pris, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem, and yet thei speke hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do.
(Troilus and Criseyde, II.22-26)