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Geoffrey Chaucer


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 6
  • Convenor: to be confirmed
  • Assessment: a 1500-word commentary (10%), 2500-word essay (45%) and unseen examination (a commentary plus two essays) (45%)

Module description

Chaucer has a magisterial reputation that has made his work a constant feature of the English literary canon. His work is extraordinary in its learnedness, its originality and its tonal range.

In this module we consider Chaucer's oeuvre in the context of its time and in relation to the literary traditions that governed its composition. You will read Chaucer's enterprising and mercurial fiction closely and in Middle English, thinking about the issues (textual, cultural and so on) that affect the way we read writers of the past, and particularly of the medieval past. We will cover the politics and practice of literary influence and translation, considering how Chaucer adapts and makes self-conscious comment on the literary conventions he inherited.

First, we look at Chaucer's reputation as a translator, his short poems and dream visions. We then focus on 'The Canterbury Tales', considering its juxtaposition of examples of a range of medieval genres within a narrative frame, and the implications of the poem’s unfinished state.

We will read:

  • Geoffrey Chaucer, The Riverside Chaucer, ed. L. Benson et al. 3rd edn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987)

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will have:

  • had an opportunity to enjoy and understand Chaucer’s writing and late medieval culture
  • consolidated your ability to read Middle English
  • an ability to read closely and in context.