This course serves as a throrough 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 in the class: the "obsolescence" of chivalry; the Black Death's effect on peasant political consciousness; the Christian encounter with Islam, Judaism, and the East; Italian tyranny and its relation to Chaucer's interests in Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch; the expansion of transnational capital; the eloquence of women as both social virtue and social vice; and, finally, the pressing question of how to divide a single fart among twelve greedy friars. We'll develop our Middle English skills through a combination of translation practice, dictionary searching, manuscript study, and oral performance--Chaucer wrote the Tales with the expectation that they would be read aloud. Students will be expected to keep up with a relatively light amount of reading, give a presentation on medieval English culture, write occasional reading responses, and put together a substantial research paper on some aspect of Chaucer's text.
Note: English 025 fulfills the Language and Literature requirement as well as the pre-1800 literature requirement of the English major. It is also a distributional course in Sector III (Arts and Letters) of the general requirement.