Term: Spring 2008
Time: 5:00-7:30 p.m. R
Prof. G. Steinberg
Office: Bliss 216
Office Phone: 771-2106
Office Hours: 3:30-5:00 p.m. MR
and by appointment
COURSE DESCRIPTION. In this course, we will read the entire Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English. As we read each tale, we will examine current scholarly discussion about it, reading criticism by some of the most interesting and influential Chaucer scholars today. Our goal in the course, besides the straightforward enjoyment of Chaucer’s wit and artistry, will be to familiarize ourselves with (and to situate ourselves within) the existing critical dialogue about Chaucer’s tales.
GOALS. By the end of the course, you will
The principal learning activity in the course will be reading – the reading both of Chaucer and of scholarship about Chaucer. Reading Chaucer will provide students with a foundation of knowledge about the Middle Ages, useful both to secondary English teachers (who may need to broaden their instructional repertoire in order to teach Chaucer and other medieval texts in their classrooms) and to prospective Ph.D. students (who need a broad base of knowledge in the foundational literary texts, such as The Canterbury Tales, in order to navigate their doctoral studies successfully). In order to facilitate your learning from your reading, readings for class will be opened up through response papers and through participation in class discussion. In addition, writing groups and a seminar paper will help to develop your skills in terms of critical practices in research and writing in the field of English.
REQUIREMENTS. For this course, you must complete the following requirements:
I will not figure your final grade mathematically but holistically. Your seminar paper will, however, be absolutely crucial in my holistic calculations. I consider the seminar paper to be an opportunity for you to show me what you’ve learned in class, applying what you’ve learned in a new context. For this reason, your participation, your writing groups, and your response papers will together not quite equal your seminar paper in weight when I evaluate your work for your final grade. In your seminar paper, you need to argue a clear, specific, original thesis, and you need to do so with professionalism appropriate to the field of English. I expect you to enter into the critical conversation going on in scholarly articles and books on your topic, saying something worth saying while responding to what others have said before you. Needless to say, professionalism in terms of standard punctuation, spelling, and grammar is a must.
Your writing groups will form and begin meeting around midterm time at the very latest. Initially, the groups will brainstorm ideas for seminar paper topics. Later, your group’s members will serve as peer reviewers of your seminar paper drafts. The groups should meet (in person or, if that’s not always possible, electronically) at least six times during the semester (although I encourage groups to meet even more often than that). At least six times, each group should submit a brief report (via email to me) of what the group has been doing. If a group would like me to come to one (or more) of its meetings, I will graciously accept any invitations proffered.
For the purposes of this class, your participation in class should be meaningful. Quality is more important than quantity. A student who says one really good, thoughtful, provocative, original, challenging thing in a class meeting is doing better than a student who makes lots and lots of observations but repeats what other people have already said or tries to read my mind and say what I supposedly want to hear. Worst of all, however, is silence. I understand and respect that some people are shy, but our classroom is meant to be a safe place to try out ideas and share them with others for the edification of everyone. So, everyone needs to participate for the benefit of all.
In the course of the term, you are required to write 8 short, informal response papers (about 2 pages each) on the readings for class. You may choose which readings you want to respond to, as long as by the end of the semester you have responded 8 times. I ask you to type your response papers (so that they are easier for me to read), but they need not be a perfect, polished product. Rather, response papers should be just what their name says – a response. Think about the day’s reading assignment; then, write a response to what you have read. Don’t worry about typos or comma splices or organization. Be as specific and focused as you can, getting down as much as you can, as quickly as you can. Treat response papers more like a journal entry than like a formal paper. I want an exploration – as detailed and specific as possible – of the reading assignment for the day. You may not submit more than one response paper on a single day, nor may you submit a response paper for a day that you are absent from class – absolutely no exceptions. I recommend that you use your response papers as a safe place to try out potential ideas for your seminar paper.
ATTENDANCE. Regular attendance is a virtual necessity for successful completion of this class. Class discussion constitutes important, useful preparation for your graded work. If you miss a class, you will essentially lose out on that day’s contribution to your preparation, since it is never really possible to reproduce or recapture the dynamics and flow of information for a missed class meeting (even if you get notes from someone). If, however, you positively must miss a class, I expect you to find out what you missed and to come fully prepared – without excuses – to the next class meeting. And please, don’t ask, “Did I miss anything?” Check out Tom Wayman’s poem about that question.
OFFICE HOURS. My office is Bliss 216, and my office hours are 3:30-5:00 p.m. on MR. If you cannot see me during these office hours, feel free as needed to call my office (771-2106) or to talk to me before or after class to arrange an appointment at another time. You may also contact me by email (email@example.com), or you may leave a message for me in my box at the English department offices in Bliss 124. Email is generally the fastest way to contact me in an emergency.
EMAIL. I may, on occasion, want to e-mail everyone in class. I generally only have access to your TCNJ e-mail addresses, however. As a result, if you regularly use an e-mail address other than your TCNJ address, I recommend that you have mail from your TCNJ address forwarded to the address you use more regularly. That way, if I e-mail your TCNJ address, my message will be forwarded to your other address automatically. To forward mail from your TCNJ address, go to http://managemail.tcnj.edu/ and click “Mail Forwarding Manager.” Follow the directions there to set up the mail forwarding.
If you would like to send an e-mail message to one or more of your classmates, you can do so through SOCS. To access SOCS, go to http://socs.tcnj.edu and, after you have logged in with your TCNJ e-mail username and password, choose this class from the list of your courses this semester. Then, when our course page comes up, click the “Email” button. From there, you can select individual e-mail addresses or the entire class and send a message to the address(es) you’ve selected.
Accommodations. The College of New Jersey prohibits discrimination against any student on the basis of physical or mental disability or perceived disability. The College will also provide reasonable and appropriate accommodations to enable students with disabilities to participate in the life of the campus community. Individuals with disabilities are responsible for reporting and supplying documentation verifying their disability, and requests for accommodations must be initiated through the Office of Differing Abilities Services (Eickhoff Hall 159). If you require special assistance, I will make every reasonable effort to accommodate your needs and to create an environment where your special abilities will be respected.
COURSE SCHEDULE. This schedule is subject to change at the discretion of the professor. Changes made after the beginning of the semester will be shown in red.
|R Jan 24||
Background: “Language and Versification” in the introduction to The Canterbury Tales, especially the material on pronunciation. You might also want to check out a handy online glossary of the most common archaic words used by Chaucer available at http://www.towson.edu/~duncan/glossary.html. Another good web resource is “The Chaucer Metapage” at http://www.unc.edu/depts/chaucer/. A fairly simple, straightforward summary of the history of recent literary theory is available online at http://www.sou.edu/English/IDTC/timeline/uslit.htm. If you haven’t studied literary theory before, you might want to familiarize yourself with this page. Click here to see some examples of what medieval manuscripts look like and here for a brief introduction to Middle English. Click here for a brief outline of the most important social groups in Chaucer’s day.
|R Jan 31||
Canterbury Tales: the General Prologue & the Knight’s Tale.
Critical Essays: Malcolm Andrew, “Context and Judgment in the General Prologue,” Chaucer Review 23 (1989), 316-337 (available at the library), & Terry Jones, Chaucer’s Knight, pp. 141-216 (available in SOCS under “Resources”).
|R Feb 7||
Canterbury Tales: the Miller’s Prologue and Tale &
the Reeve’s Prologue and Tale.
Critical Essays: Chaucer, ed. Valerie Allen and Ares Axiotis, pp. 169-192 (on reserve at the library), & Britton J. Harwood, “Psychoanalytic Politics: Chaucer and Two Peasants,” ELH 68 (2001), 1-27 (available through Project Muse).
|R Feb 14||
Canterbury Tales: the Cook’s Prologue and Tale & the Man of
Law’s Introduction, Tale, and Epilogue.
Critical Essays: Paul Strohm, “‘Lad with Revel to Newegate’: Chaucerian Narrative and Historical Metanarrative” (available in SOCS under “Resources”), & Susan Schibanoff, “Worlds Apart” (available in SOCS under “Resources”).
|R Feb 21||
Canterbury Tales: the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale, the
Friar’s Prologue and Tale, & the Summoner’s Prologue and Tale.
Critical Essays: S. H. Rigby, “The Wife of Bath, Christine de Pizan, and the Medieval Case for Women,” Chaucer Review 35 (2000), 133-165 (available through Project Muse), & Masculinities in Chaucer, ed. Peter G. Beidler, pp. 77-90 (on reserve at the library).
|R Feb 28||
Canterbury Tales: the Clerk’s Prologue and Tale & the
Merchant’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue.
Critical Essays: Read Literary Practice and Social Change in Britain, 1380-1539, ed. Lee Patterson, pp. 156-215 (on reserve at the library), & Holly A. Crocker, “Performative Passivity and Fantasies of Masculinity in the Merchant’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 38 (2003), 178-198 (available through Project Muse).
|R Mar 6||
Canterbury Tales: the Squire’s Introduction and Tale & the
Franklin’s Prologue and Tale.
Critical Essays: Read Joseph A. Dane, “‘Tyl Mercurius Hous He Flye’: Early Printed Texts and Critical Readings of the Squire’s Tale” Chaucer Review 34 (2000), 309-316 (available through Project Muse), & Chaucer, ed. Valerie Allen and Ares Axiotis, pp. 242-252 (on reserve at the library).
|R Mar 13||NO CLASS (Spring Break)|
|R Mar 20||
Canterbury Tales: the Physician’s Tale & the
Pardoner’s Introduction, Prologue, and Tale.
Critical Essays: R. Howard Bloch, “Chaucer’s Maiden’s Head,” in Chaucer, ed. Valerie Allen and Ares Axiotis, pp. 145-156 (on reserve at the library), & Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics, pp. 156-184 (on reserve at the library).
|R Mar 27||
Canterbury Tales: the Shipman’s Tale & the Prioress’s
Prologue and Tale.
Critical Essays: Masculinities in Chaucer, ed. Peter G. Beidler, pp. 131-142 (on reserve at the library), & Chaucer, ed. Valerie Allen and Ares Axiotis, pp. 193-231 (on reserve at the library).
|R Apr 3||
Canterbury Tales: the Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas & the
Tale of Melibee.
Critical Essays: Angela Jane Weisl, Conquering the Reign of Femeny, pp. 70-84 (available in SOCS under “Resources”), & Masculinities in Chaucer, ed. Peter G. Beidler, pp. 157-171 (on reserve at the library).
R Apr 10
Canterbury Tales: the Monk’s Prologue and Tale & the Nun’s
Priest’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue.
Critical Essays: Jane Dick Zatta, “Chaucer’s Monk: A Mighty Hunter before the Lord,” Chaucer Review 29 (1994), 111-133 (availabe at the library), & Richard W. Fehrenbacher, “‘A Yeerd Enclosed Al Aboute’: Literature and History in the Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” Chaucer Review 29 (1994), 134-148 (available at the library).
|R Apr 17||
Canterbury Tales: the Second Nun’s Prologue and Tale & the
Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale.
Critical Essays: David Raybin, “Chaucer’s Creation and Recreation of the Lyf of Seynt Cecile,” Chaucer Review 32 (1997), 196-212 (available at the library), & Peggy A. Knapp, “The Work of Alchemy,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30 (2000), 575-599 (available through Project Muse). NOTE: The latter essay is on Chaucer and Ben Jonson; you may skip the section of the essay devoted solely to Ben Jonson.
|R Apr 24||
Canterbury Tales: the Manciple’s Prologue and Tale, the
Parson’s Prologue and Tale, & Chaucer’s Retraction.
Critical Essays: Michaela Paasche Grudin, Chaucer and the Politics of Discourse, pp. 149-163 (on reserve at the library), & Closure in the Canterbury Tales, ed. David Raybin and Linda Tarte Holley pp. 115-150 (on reserve at the library).
|R May 1||Catch-up and Conclusions: Come to class prepared to tell your classmates about your seminar paper and to discuss what you ’ve concluded about The Canterbury Tales as a whole this semester.|
|R May 8||
NO CLASS (I’ll be gone to a conference)
SEMINAR PAPERS DUE
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