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Medieval Road Trip: Reading and Writing with Chaucer

ENGL 0701.401
also offered as: COML 0701 / RELS 0701
TR 10:15-11:44am

In the fourteenth century, the short story was all the rage, and Geoffrey Chaucer was a master of the form. In this course, we will read his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales—these pathbreaking tales feature some memorable narrators and range from raunchy to preachy, from fable to romance, and from comedy to horror. They ask us to consider whether stories that entertain us can also make us better humans, how we should react when stories offend us; what power short stories have to challenge hierarchies and inequalities, and finally, how adapting and critiquing old stories can fashion communities of readers and writers across time. We will read Chaucer alongside his own favorite tales by Italian and classical authors as well as read modern authors inspired by Chaucer, such as Gloria Naylor, Patience Agbabi, Caroline Bergvall, and Zadie Smith. Finally, we will try our hands at writing like, with, and against Chaucer. We will translate and annotate his tales, and experiment with his language and meter. Our final project will be to assemble an anthology of tales to which students will be asked to contribute either a critical or a creative piece. In the past, students have translated Chaucer into Spanish and Chinese, written an entirely new tale, created comics and animations, and even composed operas (really!). Other assignments will include short weekly writing pieces and an oral presentation. No knowledge of medieval literature is required. Students from all disciplines are welcome.

English Major Requirements
  • Literature Seminar pre-1700 (AEB7)
  • Literature Seminar pre-1900 (AEB9)
  • Sector 1 Theory and Poetics (AETP)
  • Sector 3 Medieval/Renaissance (AEMR)
English Concentration Attributes
  • Medieval/Renaissance Concentration (AEMC)
  • Poetry & Poetics Concentration (AEPP)
College Attributes
Additional Attributes