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ENGL2082 Chaucer and his World

Module Overview

The writings of Geoffrey Chaucer have inspired generations of poets, dramatists, novelists and, lately, film-makers from Robert Henryson and William Shakespeare through to Rana Dasgupta and Danny Boyle. In this module, you will explore the qualities and characteristics that have contributed to Chaucer’s works’ enduring popularity. You will also develop an understanding of the problems that arise when we attempt to connect with past aesthetic and cultural norms and develop strategies for approaching these. This module will place Chaucer’s writing in the context of the late-medieval world in which he lived, covering issues such as English and European literary cultures; Europe and with the wider world; the late-medieval world’s sense of its history; gender relations; writing a changing society; writing prejudice; writing and religious beliefs. This module is not suitable for students with no prior experience of English literary studies. Prior experience of Middle English is not essential; an introduction to the language will be provided via two one-hour workshops at the start of the module. Experience of reading earlier forms of English (e.g. Shakespeare) will be an advantage.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

The aims of this unit are to - give you an enjoyable, critical, and deep experience of reading the writings of the Middle English poet Geoffrey Chaucer in the original language - enable you to understand the significance of Chaucer’s writing within the culture of the late-fourteenth-century and those of its characteristics that audiences in different historical and cultural contexts have valued - enable you to discover the critical and/or theoretical approaches to Chaucer most appropriate to your own cultural and historical context. When you have completed this course, you will be able to - read, comment upon, and critique Middle English texts with the help of a glossary - place Chaucer’s work in its literary and historical context - understand and discuss the relationship between historical, cultural and/or social context and the interpretation of Chaucer’s works - evaluate and critique critical and theoretical approaches to Chaucer’s writing orally and in writing - bring relevant critical and/or theoretical approaches to bear in your discussion of Chaucer’s work - articulate your own independent, critically aware response to Chaucer’s works orally and in writing.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • place Chaucer’s work in its literary and historical context
  • understand and discuss the relationship between historical, cultural and/or social context and the interpretation of Chaucer’s works
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate and critique critical and theoretical approaches to Chaucer’s writing orally and in writing
  • bring relevant critical and/or theoretical approaches to bear in your discussion of Chaucer’s work
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • read, comment upon, and critique Middle English texts with the help of a glossary
  • articulate your own independent, critically aware response to Chaucer’s works orally and in writing.

Syllabus

You will read selections from Chaucer’s earlier and mid-career poetry; selections from his late and best-known but unfinished work, The Canterbury Tales; works written by anonymous and named medieval writers influential in fourteenth-century culture and society (provided online or in photocopy). Texts for detailed study will vary from year to year; the following indicative list provides a guide to coverage. All core texts are available in The Riverside Chaucer, ed. by Larry D. Benson and others (Oxford: OUP, 1988 or any subsequent edition). - The House of Fame - The Legend of Good Women - The Canterbury Tales: The General Prologue; The Knight’s Tale; The Miller’s Tale; The Shipman’s Tale; The Franklin’s Tale; The Prioress’s Tale; The Nun’s Priest’s Tale.

Special Features

This is a double coded module for L5 and L6 students.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will be - 2 x 1 hr language workshops (mandatory for L5 students) - 1 x lecture per week (interactive) - 1 x discussion-based seminar per week - Individual consultations before and after assignments. You will learn through - attendance at and active participation in classes - individual study of texts - critical reading - preparing group presentations - taking notes on and commenting on other students’ presentations - participation in class discussions. This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

TypeHours
Completion of assessment task42
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Follow-up work6
Seminar12
Teaching12
Lecture12
Wider reading or practice6
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Wallace, David (2002). The Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. 

Bisson, Lillian M (1998). Chaucer and the Late-Medieval World. 

Gray, Douglas (2003). The Oxford Companion to Chaucer. 

Keen, Maurice (1990). English Society in the Later Middle Ages. 

Pearsall, Derek (1992). The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer: A Critical Biography. 

Geoffrey Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson and others (1988 or any subsequent edition). The Riverside Chaucer. 

Brown, Peter, ed (2000). A Companion to Chaucer. 

Assessment

Formative

Group presentation

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (600 words) 25%
Essay  (2800 words) 75%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2800 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Costs

Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Students will need access to a personal copy of The Riverside Chaucer, ed. Larry Benson and others, 3rd edition, (Oxford: OUP, 1988 or any subsequent edition) for the duration of the module. Other core texts will be provided in handout format or online; those wishing to view the latter in print may incur some printing costs.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at www.calendar.soton.ac.uk.

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