This course serves as a thorough introduction to Chaucer's *Canterbury Tales* in their original Middle English. We'll read tales by a variety of tellers, paying particular attention to the ways in which the dialogue carried out by Chaucer's pilgrims engages with the poem's late fourteenth-century cultural context. Among the issues we'll address are the limits of chivalry; the "absence" of the 1381 Rising; encounters with Islam, Judaism, and the East; Italian tyranny and English politics; the beginnings of transnational capitalism; and the eloquence of women. Our Middle English skills will be developed through a combination of translation exercises, dictionary searches, and manuscript transcriptions. Students will be expected to keep up with the reading, present once or twice during the semester, write occasional reading responses, and put together a substantial research project on some aspect of Chaucer's text.