This course introduces students to medieval English literature and culture through an overview of Geoffrey Chaucer's poetry. We will read a variety of courtly poems such as the Parliament of Fowls (birds get together to discuss love and policy), The Legend of Good Women (women from classical mythology air their complaints), The Book of the Duchess (Chaucer comforts a grieving knight), as well as a number of the Canterbury Tales including the bawdy Miller's Tale (a college student seduces his landlord's wife), the shocking Pardoner's Tale (a preacher confesses publicly that he is fraud), the disturbing Prioress's Tale (Jews ritually murder a Christian boy), and the notorious Clerk's Tale (a despotic lord marries a peasant girl..and then..). Some concerns of the course will include the competing values of aristocratic culture, the relation between poetic genres and social class, Chaucer's historical and mythographic consciousness, his classical and continental inheritance (Dante, Petrarch, Ovid, Boethius), and the peculiarities of fourteenth-century authorship, reading, and performance (translation, the status of English, manuscript traditions). Readings will be in Middle English, and we will spend some time on pronunciation and reading skills, as well as investigating Chaucerian "keywords" such as truth, pity, courtesy, imagination, and intention.
No previous knowledge of the subject or of Middle English required. Just come as you are!
Requirements: participation, short weekly exercises, a mid-term and a final exam.