Exploring Medieval Literature: The Canterbury Tales
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
This course has now started
Course Code: HLT153
Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)
What is the course about?
This online literature course explores Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and its literary, social and political contexts. We will examine the General Prologue, where Chaucer's cast of pilgrims are introduced, and read the tales by the Miller, the Cook, the Man of Law, the Pardoner, and the Prioress. We will see how Chaucer experiments with poetic form and often playfully defies clear interpretation; we will consider how the Tales registers important philosophical, ethical and political debates of the period; and we will discuss the important role Chaucer plays in the history of English literature.
Tom White received his PhD in English from Birkbeck, University of London in 2016. He has since worked in the English Faculty at Oxford University, as a lecturer at Mansfield College, and as a tutor for the Workers' Educational Association. His research interests range broadly across the literature of the medieval and early modern periods, the history of the book, critical theory and visual culture. He also writes for the London Review of Books and MAP Magazine.
This is a live online course. You will need:
- Internet connection. The classes work best with Chrome.
- A computer with microphone and camera is best (e.g. a PC/laptop/iMac/MacBook), or a tablet/iPad/smart phone/iPhone if you don't have a computer.
We will contact you with joining instructions before your course starts.
What will we cover?
Chaucer’s style, different kinds of writing, and his literary preoccupations
Consideration of some significant Tales in the collection.
Discussion of what the Canterbury Tales tells us about medieval society, and Chaucer’s views on it.
A look at the different manuscripts that we still have access to.
Consider how the Tales are incomplete and of uncertain order. What does this mean for our interpretation of them?
Discuss how we should interpret the characters that populate Chaucer’s work.
What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...
Understand the world within which Chaucer lived.
Be aware of the range of tales, and have detailed understanding of a few selected tales.
Have a general knowledge of the structure of the Tales.
Be familiar with the key themes of interest to Chaucer.
Understand how Chaucer uses language to keep us guessing about his true intentions throughout much of the work.
What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?
Although this course considers medieval English writing, it is not technical and requires no specific knowledge of linguistics or linguistic terms. The original language of the text will be studied in class along with modern translations to aid understanding.
How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?
By presentation, demonstration and group discussion. You would benefit from additional reading before and during the time of the course. If you could access the Riverside Chaucer in preparation for the course that would be helpful, though material will be provided in advance.
Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?
Recommended reading (not mandatory): The tutor will be providing all materials but recommends the following texts:
The Riverside Chaucer (2008), the standard Middle English text. There are also modern translations, particularly David Wright’s 2011 translation in Oxford World’s Classics or Neville Coghill’s translation in Penguin Classic.
When I've finished, what course can I do next?
HLT259 Exploring Medieval Literature: Shakespeare and the Medieval Age will take place from 7/11- 12/12/22 with the same tutor. Look for other Literary History courses on our website under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.