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EN2C5/EN3C5 Chaucer

This is one of the Distributional Requirements for the Theory, North American and World Literature Pathways for 2017/18. Can also be selected as an option under the remaining Pathway.

EN252 Chaucer 2017-18

Module convenor: Dr Marco Nievergelt (H 520)

Teaching times for 2017-8: Thursday 10 - 11.30.



To read the greater part of Chaucer's work (including some of his translations) in the context of late fourteenth-century English and European literary culture. Students will achieve an understanding of some of the European authors who exercised most influence on Chaucer (Guillaume de Lorris, Jean de Meun, Boethius, Boccaccio), and of some of the major literary genres of the time (romance, fabliau, animal fable, dream allegory, saint's legend etc.) They will also be introduced to contemporary criticism on and theorizations of Chaucer, and will be invited to pay some consideration to the major manuscripts in which his work circulated, audience, literary afterlife, and his London context.


The Riverside Chaucer ed. L.D. Benson et al (Oxford). Most of you will already have this.

Guillaume de Lorris & Jean de Meun, Romance of the Rose (English trans. by Frances Horgan) (Oxford World Classics).

Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde, ed. Stephen A. Barney (Norton Critical Edition). This edition contains a facing page translation of Bocccaccio's Il Filostrato, which we'll be reading alongside T&C, and Henryson's continuation of the poem,The Testament of Cresseid, which we'll be studying. So, even though T&C is in the Riverside, you'll also need to buy this edition.

Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, tr. V.E. Watts (Penguin)

Sources for individual poems will be added to the module outline as weblinked extracts before the beginning of the autumn term.



  • A biography of Chaucer : Derek Pearsall's is the classic account. But keep your eyes peeled for the exciting forthcoming new biographies by Marion Turner (2017?) and another by Ardis Butterfield (2018?)
  • The The Romance of the Rose (by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun), trans Frances Horgan.
  • [ Optional: The Romance of the Rose (Critical Study) by Sarah Kay (Grant & Cutler, 1995) ]
  • The Book of the Duchess (Riverside Chaucer).
  • Boethius' Condolation of Philosophy tr. V.E. Watts (Penguin)



Autumn Term: Early Dream Visions

1 Introduction. Chaucer's Life Records. Guillaume de Lorris, The Romance of the Rose (in trans.) Oxford World Classics (prepare first part, by Guillaume de Lorris, pp. 1-61)

2. Jean de Meun, The Romance of the Rose (continuation), pp. 61-end. Lee Patterson: Chaucer and the Subject of History (Introduction).

3 The Book of the Duchess (sources: Ovid, 'Story of Ceyx and Alcyone' from Metamorphoses; Macrobius, Commentary on Scipio's Dream; Helen Phillips, 'The French Background' from Chaucer, An Oxford Guide)

4 The House of Fame (sources: Dido's tragedy, Virgil, Aeneid, Bk 4 [I'm assuming most of you have the text and have read this for 'Epic Tradition', reread if time]; 'Dido to Aeneas', Ovid's Heroides; Eagle, from Dante, Purgatorio; 'Fame' from Virgil, Aeneid, Bk 4; 'House of Fame', Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk 12 )

5 The Parlement of Fowles (sources: Cicero, from Scipio's Dream; 'Temple of Venus' from Boccaccio's Il Teseida; Alain de Lille, from The Complaint of Nature; 'Florence and Blanchefor': example of 13th-c French bird debate)

6 Reading Week. No Class: Read T&C in its entirety

Autumn Term: Chaucer and Pagan Antiquity

7 Troilus and Criseyde, Bks 1-3. Boccaccio, Il Filostrato, parts 1-3, facing page translation (Norton Critical Edition)

8 Troilus and Criseyde, Bks 4-5. Boccaccio, Il Filostrato, parts 4-9, facing page translation.

9 Troilus and Criseyde and Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy. Please buy the Penguin Classics edition, trans by V.E. Watts. You need to read Consolation bks 1-2; bk 4, prose 1 & poem 1; bk 4, prose 6; bk 5, prose 2-4.

10 Henryson, The Testament of Cresseid (Norton Critical Edition) (15th c Scottish continuation of Chaucer's poem)


Spring Term: The Canterbury Tales

1 The Legend of Good Women (critical essay: E. Tuttle Hansen, 'The Feminization of Men in Chaucer's LGW'. Main source for individual legends is Ovid's Heroides, a series of letters by classical women to their lovers. You've already looked at one - 'Dido to Aeneas' - one of the sources for week 3. Here's another, the letter of Medea to Jason)

2 The Canterbury Tales, introduction, manuscripts, General Prologue (select sources for GP)

3 Chivalry: The Knight's Tale (source: Extracts from Boccaccio's Il Teseida - Prologue; Arcite and Palamon fall in love with Emilia; Emilia's prayer to Diana; the tournament; Arcite's apotheosis; the marriage of Emilia and Palamon)

4 Fabliaux: Miller, Reeve, Cook, Shipman (analogue to the Miller's Tale; analogues to the Reeve's Tale; analogue to the Shipman's Tale)

5 Spiritual Romance: Man of Law, Clerk

6 Reading Week

7 Autobiography: Wife of Bath, (sources: Old Woman's Speech in Romance of the Rose; Theophrastus' Golden Book of Marriage) Pardoner (source: False-Seeming's Speech in Romance of the Rose). Criticism (optional reading, no need to bring to seminar): C. Dinshaw, 'Eunuch Hemeneutics'.

8 Bourgeois Romance: Merchant, Franklin (analogue from Boccaccio's Decameron ), Thopas ( parallel popular romance from Guy of Warwick) (Melibee)

9 Animal Fable: (Monk), Nun's Priest (sources: Aesop, Marie de France, Roman de Renart), Manciple (sources: Ovid, Gower)

10 Virginity Narratives: Prioress's Tale (analogue: The Story of the Alma Redemptoris Mater; Pope Gregory X, On Christian Mistreatment of Jews ), Second Nun's Tale, Physician's Tale


Summer Term

1 Canon's Yeoman's Tale, extracts from Parson's Tale, Retraction. (criticism: L. Patterson, from 'The Parson's Tale and the Quitting of the Canterbury Tales', P. Strohm, from Social Chaucer, 'A Mixed Commonwealth of Style')

Extracts to read from Parson's Tale:

the prologue and opening pp. 287-90.

p. 299 Sequitur de septem peccatis mortalibus (here follows the seven deadly sins). Please read sections on De superbia (pride) begins p. 299; Ira (wrath) begins p. 305; Avaricia (avarice) begins p. 313; Gula (gluttony) begins p. 316; Luxuria (lust) begins p. 317. No need to read any of the remedies against the sins (Remedium contra peccatum)

Chaucer's Retraction (immed after Parson's Tale)

2 revision seminar



Assessment is 50/50 (by 1 x 5000 word essay, due in term 2, week 1, and a 2 hr exam).

The exam will consist of 3 questions.

1. a critical commentary from a choice of two extracts from texts studied in term 1 (1/2 hour)

2. a critical commentary from a choice of two extracts from texts studied in term 2 (1/2 hour)

3. an essay from a choice of questions on texts studied in term 2 (1 hour)


The expectation is that students on this module will have studied Medieval to Renaissance (EN 121). However, I am willing to consider other students who have prior knowledge of reading Middle English.