Assignment: Short Paper #2

For your second short paper (approx. 8 pages for undergraduate students, and 12 pages for graduate students), you are going to tackle two tasks:

FIRST, you will choose one of Chaucer’s tales — ideally one that appeals to you or provokes you on some level — and begin looking at articles and book chapters on that tale in order to identify a critical controversy (disagreement between various scholars) relative to some notable aspect of that tale (which might be the depiction of a particular character or characters, an interpretation of the overall story’s meaning(s), and/or issues pertinent to the story having to do with chivalry/romance, ethics/morality, faith, friendship, goodness, hatred, evil, gender, identity, love, marriage, misogyny, philosophy, power/authority, religion, sexuality, sin, social relationships, work/labor, etc.). You will want to find 4-5 articles (6-8 for graduate students) that you think illustrate well a scholarly disagreement over one of Chaucer’s tales (as related to a specific character or characters, the story’s overall meaning, and/or various thematic aspects, as outlined above). The “Recommended” readings on the syllabus are a good place to start, by the way. Another excellent place to start hunting down critical controversies is in the “Explanatory Notes” in the Appendix section of your Riverside Chaucer. You will then write an overview of these articles (approx. 4 pages; 7-8 pages for graduate students) and how they are all related and on what important points they disagree, and why, being sure to paraphrase and directly quote the articles in order to make your overview as clearly detailed and precise as possible. Also: be OBJECTIVE. You are not being asked to throw your “two cents” into this fight (yet).

Go here for comprehensive bibliographies of scholarship on Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales:

Essential Chaucer Bibliographies & Other Resources

To make sure you are getting the most up-to-date bibliographic information on Chaucer scholarship, you should also also consult the MLA International Bibliography, available via Lovejoy Library’s website, under “eResources A-Z”:

Lovejoy Library

These bibliographies, in most cases, will provide you with brief abstracts of articles and book chapters, and occasionally with links to the full texts of articles, but mainly they give you citations of scholarship, and to see if what you want is accessible to you via Lovejoy Library’s article databases or book collections, be sure to utilize (also under “eResources A-Z”), Academic Search Complete, JSTOR, and Project Muse. If Lovejoy Library does not have a book you want, be sure to always “repeat search in the I-Share catalog,” and request the book from another library if need be via I-Share. You can also use ILLiad for articles and books not available by any other means:

SIUE ILLiad [Interlibrary Loan]

SECOND, I want you to spend the remainder of your paper answering this question: relative to the controversy you have identified, why should anyone care (in YOUR opinion)? In other words — and again, relative to the specific tale and critical controversy you have examined via others’ scholarship — why (or why not), in your opinion, is Chaucer’s tale relevant to our lives today, and how (in your opinion) is the disagreement over the tale important (or not)? Why does any of this matter? Why should we care?

The papers are due to me ELECTRONICALLY on Thursday, December 15th by midnight, and must be written and formatted in Microsoft, and emailed to me as an attachment at: They should be typed, double-spaced, with one-inch margins all around, and they should employ a uniform and very neat & tidy & legible & thorough citation method (whether MLA-style, Chicago Manual, APA, or any other professional citation format).

Naked Chaucer

For my money, one of the best essays ever written on Chaucer, which also comments on the highly fictionalized portrait of Chaucer in Brian Helgeland’s film A Knight’s Tale (2001), is George Edmondson’s essay, “Naked Chaucer,” published in The Post-Historical Middle Ages, edited by Elizabeth Scala and Sylvia Frederico (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009). Here is a tasty quotation from Edmondson’s essay:

What I am suggesting here . . . is that the figure we refer to as “Chaucer” has never been anything other than Chaucer’s “second nature”: the mere relic of a historical being, at once a “life” — or better, an afterlife — persisting well beyond the death of the symbolic forms (the institutions of the late Middle Ages) that lent it coherence, and a symbolic form (a text, an image, a canonical figure), persisting apart from and beyond the historical form of life that vitalized it. One may be tempted to dismiss the Chaucer found in Helgeland’s film as silly, anachronistic, or glibly “postmodern.” Yet to do so is to overlook how the image of a naked Chaucer might serve as focal point for thinking not only about his unusual presence, at once spectral and material, on the modern scene, but also about what it means to say we have an obligation, as medievalists, to the dead.

Go here to read the full essay:

George Edmondson, NAKED CHAUCER

Assignment: Short Paper #1

Figure 1. Julie Walters as the Wife of Bath in BBC-TV’s contemporary adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

*this paper assignment is adapted from Prof. Alan Baragona’s ENG413 Chaucer course at Virginia Military Institute, which he has generously shared with us.

Contemporary Chaucer

On YouTube you will find modernized television versions of two of Chaucer’s tales produced a few years ago by the BBC: “The Knight’s Tale” and “The Wife of Bath” (which combines her prologue and tale, as well as her portrait in “The General Prologue”).

Pick one of these BBC episodes and compare it thoroughly to Chaucer’s original.  Consider the significance of the absence of a tale teller if that is appropriate, and look for every parallel you can find. Consider how the producers came up with modern equivalents of Chaucer’s characters and plot devices and whether the TV show captures, distorts, or just waters down Chaucer’s tale. Make sure you refer to passages in the text to support your view of Chaucer’s intentions. Use only the Middle English text for quotations, paraphrases and reference to content. Even if you are writing about a tale that you also read in Modern English, you should not rely on the translation as evidence for your opinion, in case the translator changed the text in a way that would undermine your case.

Ultimately, I would like for you to ruminate [to reflect and think out loud] in any way you see fit on how the contemporary television adaptation of the tale sheds light on Chaucer’s original story and methods as a an artist, and conversely, how having read Chaucer’s original story has helped you to detect things [meaning-wise and otherwise] in the television adaptation you otherwise would not have noticed. What, finally, is the value, in your opinion, of such adaptations, both for reading Chaucer but also for thinking about how his work endures?

Length: 5-6 double spaced pages.

Due: Monday, October 24th

The Canterbury Tales Read Aloud [LibriVox]

LibriVox is a wonderful organization devoted to “the acoustical liberation of books in the public domain” and they have made available online FULL audio recordings of all of the tales contained in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, and you can access those here:

LibriVox: The Canterbury Tales

Listening to Chaucer’s tales read aloud in their entirety, especially with some of the dramatic flourishes provided here, really makes the stories and also the poetry come alive. Keep in mind, though, that the readers here have opted to modernize much of the pronunciation, while retaining some of the Middle English inflections and pronunciations, so you don’t want to use these as guides for pronouncing Middle English.

Essential Bibliographies & Other Resources: Scholarship on Chaucer + Historical Context

Figure 1. The Clerk of Oxford, detail from The Canterbury Tales by Geoffery Chaucer (1342-1400), The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California

Studies in the Age of Chaucer (SAC) Bibliography: a searchable, annotated bibliography of every book and article written about Chaucer since 1975.

The Essential Chaucer, by Mark Allen and John H. Fisher: a selective, annotated bibliography of Chaucer studies from 1900-1984. The bibliography is divided into almost 90 topics, including themes, techniques, and individual works by Chaucer.

Annotated Bibliography of The Chaucer Review: Annotated and Indexed Bibliography of the first 30 years of The Chaucer Review.

Stephen R. Reimer, “A Chaucer Bibliography”: From the University of Alberta, Canada, an extensive bibliography that covers Chaucer’s historical, social, and philosophical background as well as a wide range of literary studies organized by theme.

Luminarium: Geoffrey Chaucer Page: This site is a sub-area of Anniina Jokinen’s larger Luminarium Anthology of Middle English Literature, which covers several authors of the period. The Chaucer site has six sections, including “Essays and Articles on Chaucer,” which contains efficiently organized links to almost 100 essays which vary considerably both in length and scholarly value. Jokinen also provides links to Chaucer’s works and ‘Geoffrey Chaucer: Additional Sources,’ over 80 links to biographical information, additional essays, images, and much more.

Middle English Dictionary: covers English usage from 1100 to 1500 C.E.

The ORB Encyclopedia: an online reference book for a wide range of topics related to The Middle Ages.

Internet Medieval Sourcebook: a rich resource, managed at Fordham University by Paul Halsall, of primary documents related to medieval history and divided by topics, such as “Celtic World,” “Crusades,” “Sex and Gender,” and the like.

Assignment: Oral Presentations

ENG404 Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

Fall 2011

Prof. Eileen Joy


Each student will give one oral presentation during the semester, and these presentations are meant to augment the historical and literary backgrounds to Chaucer’s times (fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England) and work. These presentations are meant to be informal and each student should plan to speak, while seated, for about fifteen minutes (no longer than twenty, PERIOD). I advise making a handout to pass around to all of us (we are 23 persons total), and PowerPoint presentations are NOT allowed, as I cannot emphasize enough how informal these presentations should be, while also being informative, detailed, and clear. Hand puppets are allowed, as is siege machinery.

In the table below, each student can see when they are making their presentation, on what subject, and where to find the most useful information on that subject:




Sep. 12: The Knight’s Tale

1. Aaron McCoy

1. Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Text: The Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

2. Curt Hummel

2. Andreas de Capellanus, De Amore

Cicero, On Friendship

Sep. 19: The Miller’s Tale & The Reeve’s Tale

  1. Kyle Schwarzkopf

1. Fabliaux (literary genre)

2. Eric Kratschmer

2. John Wyclif and the Lollards

The Lollards

John Wyclif (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Sep. 26: The Man of Law’s Tale

1. Jake Bateman

1. Apollonius of Tyre

Story Summary

Elizabeth Archibald, Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations (Cambridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 1991)

2. Noelle Winkle

2. John Gower, Confessio Amantis

John Gower

Confessio Amantis (Wikipedia)

John Gower, “Tale of Canace and Machaire” (from Confessio Amantis)

Oct. 3: Wife of Bath’s Prologue & Tale

1. Jenny Parker

1. St Jerome on Marriage and Virginity

St. Jerome (Wikipedia)

excerpts from: Letter XXII to Eustochium + “Against Jovinian”

2. Clark Phillips

2. The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell (analogue)

Oct. 17: The Friar’s Tale & The Summoner’s Tale

1. Zach Casselman

1. Exemplum (literary genre)

2. Jordan Robertson

2. Anti-Fraternal Satire (literary genre)

Lynn H. Nelson, “The Mendicant Friars” (lecture)

Robert P. Miller, “Anti-Fraternal Texts,” in Chaucer: Sources and Backgrounds (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977)

Oct. 31: The Clerk’s Tale

1. Nicole Patton

1. Giovanni Boccaccio (author)

Giovanni Boccaccio (Wikipedia)

Decameron Web (Brown University)

Boccaccio, “The Story of Patient Griselda” (analogue)

2. Abby Kansal

2. Francis Petrarch (author)

Francis Petrarch (Wikipedia)

Petrarch’s Letter to Boccaccio

Petrarch, “A Tale of Wifely Obedience and Faith” (analogue)

Nov. 7: The Merchant’s Tale & The Franklin’s Tale

1. Emily Ragusa

1. “On Marriage,” from Le Roman de la Rose

Roman de la Rose (Wikipedia)

2. Bri Wiegand

2. Augustine, from “On Marriage and Concupiscence”

St. Augustine (Wikipedia)

3. Mike Adams

3. “Lydia and Pyrrhus,” from Boccaccio’s Decameron (analogue)

4. Alex Orlet

4. Marie de France (author)

Breton Lai (genre)

Marie de France (Wikipedia)

Marie de France, “Eliduc”

Nov. 14: The Pardoner’s Tale

Karri McCallister

The Pardoner’s Sexuality

Monica E. McAlpine, “The Pardoner’s Homosexuality and Why It Matters” (literary criticism)

C. David Benson, “Chaucer’s Pardoner: His Sexuality and Modern Critics” (literary criticism)

Nov. 28: The Prioress’s Tale

1. Courtney Marsh

1. Blood Libel Myth

2. Latrice Johnson

2. Little St. Hugh of Lincoln

Dec. 5: The Second Nun’s Tale & The Physician’s Tale

1. Ashley Kohlmiller

1. “The Life of Saint Cecelia” (from Caxton’s Golden Legend)

Hagiography (genre)

The Golden Legend

2. Sam Kinnear

2. Livy, “The History of Appius and Virginia”

Course Syllabus, Part II: Schedule of Readings/Assignments

Monday Oct. 31 (I) The Clerk’s Tale
Background Links Study Guide: The Clerk’s Tale
Notes on Medieval Allegory
Recommended (1) Elaine Tuttle Hansen, “The Powers of Silence: The Case of the Clerk’s Griselda,” in Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (University of California Press, 1992).

(2) George Lyman Kittredge, “Chaucer’s Discussion of Marriage,” Modern Philology 9 (1911-12): 435-467.
(3) Charlotte C. Morse, “The Exemplary Griselda,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 7 (1985): 51-86.
 Monday Nov. 7 (I.a) The Merchant’s Tale
Background Links Study Guide: The Merchant’s Tale
Recommended (1) Richard Neuse, “The Merchant’s Tale: Allegory in the Mirror of Marriage,” in Chaucer’s Dante: Allegory and Epic Theater in The Canterbury Tales (University of California Press, 1991).
(2) Elaine Tuttle Hansen, “The Merchant’s Tale, or Another Poor Worm,” in Chaucer and the Fictions of Gender (University of California Press, 1992).
(I.b) The Franklin’s Tale
Background Links
Study Guide: The Franklin’s Tale
(1) Britton J. Harwood, “Chaucer and the Gift (If There Is Any),” Studies in Philology 103.1 (2006): 26-46.
(2) Alison Ganze, “‘My Trouthe For to Holde — Allas! Allas!’: Dorigen and Honor in The Franklin’s Tale,” The Chaucer Review 42.3 (2008): 312-329.
Monday Nov. 14 Translation Exercise Due

(I) The Pardoner’s Tale
Background Links
Study Guide: The Pardoner’s Tale
Guibert of Nogent: On Relics
(1) Monica E. McAlpine, “The Pardoner’s Homosexuality and Why It Matters,” PMLA 95 (1980): 8-22.
(2) C. David Benson, “Chaucer’s Pardoner: His Sexuality and Modern Critics,” Medievalia 8 (1982): 337-346.
Monday Nov. 21
No Class — Thanksgiving Holiday
Monday Nov. 28 (I) The Prioress’s Tale
Background Links Study Guide: The Prioress’s Tale

Anti-Semitic Legends
Solomon bar Samson: The Crusaders in Mainz, 27 May 1096

Medieval Sourcebook: Tales of the Virgin
Recommended (1) Sheila Delany, “Chaucer’s Prioress, the Jews, and the Muslims,” in Chaucer and the Jews: Sources, Contexts, Meanings, ed. Sheila Delany (Routledge, 2002).(2) Michael Calabrese, “Performing the Prioress: ‘Conscience’ and Responsibility in Studies of Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale,” Texas Studies in Language and Literature 44.1 (2002): 66-92.
Monday Dec. 5
(I.a) The Second Nun’s Tale & (I.b) The Physician’s Tale
Background Links Study Guides: Second Nun’s Tale and Physician’s Tale
Medieval Sourcebook: The Golden Legend
Paper #2 Due on Thursday, Dec. 15th by midnight; email as a Word document (saved with a .doc or .docx file extension) to instructor at:

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