He is famed as an author of bawdy tales, but Chaucer was foremost a cosmopolitan reader and a philosophical thinker. To get a feel for these aspects of Chaucer and his work, we’ll spend this semester investigating the poet’s commitments to questions about love, human will, and various conceptions of closure (in literary terms, the efficacy of complaint, the work of poetic endings, and the poet’s accomplishments). Our primary aim will be to understand these themes in the light of Chaucer’s wide-ranging literary influences, especially his assimilation and renovation of different literary genres (e.g., classical poetry, French and Italian verse, romance, saints’ lives, allegory, beast fable). Texts will include a selection of Chaucer’s short poems, and his major early works: TheBook of the Duchess, Parliament of Fowls, House of Fame, and Troilus and Criseyde, and the prologue to The Legend of Good Women. Requirements: enthusiastic participation, a short presentation, weekly writing exercises, a short midterm paper, and final research paper. No prior knowledge of Middle English necessary.