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ENGL3053 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

- 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.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module 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


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.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods will be • 1 x lecture per week (interactive) • 1 x discussion-based seminar per week • Individual consultations before and after assignments. • 2 x 1 hr language workshops (optional for L6 students) 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.

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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



Group presentation


MethodPercentage contribution
Critical commentary  (600 words) 17.5%
Essay  (3400 words) 82.5%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3400 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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