Chaucer Core Course
Year 2 Core Course (ENGL2001)
(Course Convenor: Dr. Marilyn Corrie)
The aim of this course is to enable students to gain a thorough overview of the works of Chaucer by means of a wide range of critical and historical approaches. By the end of the course, students will have been encouraged to read widely amongst his writings, broaden their appreciation of medieval literary culture, and gain a sense of the importance of Chaucer to the subsequent development of English literature.
Chaucer is the founding father of English literature, and a touchstone for defining both what is 'English' and what is 'literature'. Such a statement not only celebrates the power and energy of Chaucer's writing, but also poses questions about the nature of origins, or literary parenthood (particularly fatherhood) and about a national (or nationalist) culture. For these reasons Chaucer is a natural focus for a core course in English studies.
The course is divided into two parts, each occupying one term's study. One part considers Chaucer's gigantic panorama of medieval life and society, The Canterbury Tales. This work is not only a collection of vignettes of social classes from knights to cooks, and from prostitutes to parsons, but also an anthology of exceptionally varied genres and styles of writing, comic, erotic and moral. The other part of the course considers the full range of Chaucer's other writing, including dream visions, female histories, and what has been called (perhaps erroneously) the first romantic novel in English, Troilus and Criseyde.
Teaching comprises weekly lectures, fortnightly seminars, and tutorials. Lectures will be wide-ranging and will attempt to place Chaucer in the context both of medieval culture (including other English and European writers of the period) and of his subsequent reception in English literary history. Seminars will generally focus on a small number of Chaucerian works. There are no set texts for the course, allowing students the freedom to develop their own reading interests. The choice of texts for study in seminars thus varies from group to group, but all groups will study a full and representative range of works.
The Final examination paper is an open-book paper lasting six hours. A plain text of Robinson's second edition of the complete works is provided for each candidate. Candidates are expected to spend much of their time in this examination preparing their answers and are not required to write more than they would for a three-hour paper.