Exploring Medieval Literature: The Canterbury Tales

Course Dates: 20/09/21 - 25/10/21
Time: 18:00 - 19:30
Location: Online
Tutors: 
Pilgrimage, religion, social mores and foibles, exuberant women, and a drunk miller with a penchant for bashing down doors with his head! Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales are excellent examples of Middle English writing. The range of characters, diverse plotlines, energy and playfulness all offer a fine insight into 14th Century England. It’s medieval England’s most famous work; this is because Chaucer’s multi-layered writing style is varied, subtle, and brilliant.
This course will be delivered online. See the ‘What is the course about?’ section in course details for more information.
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Full fee £89.00 Senior fee £89.00 Concession £54.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT153

Started Mon, eve, 20 Sep - 25 Oct '21

Duration: 6 sessions (over 6 weeks)

Call us to check if you can still join the course 020 7492 2652 (depart num)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

This online literature course focuses on several key themes that Chaucer was concerned with when writing the Canterbury Tales. We will consider prominent Tales by the Miller, the Wife of Bath, the Prioress, the Cook, the Pardoner, and the Tale of Sir Thopas, as well as the parts of the “frame narrative” where we are introduced to Chaucer’s pilgrim characters. We will see how Chaucer often playfully defies clear interpretation, but at the same time is focused on certain matters in medieval society, such as the church and the representation of people of different status.

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.
- Earphones/headphones/speakers.
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.

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): As stated above, you would benefit from engaging with The Riverside Chaucer (2008), the standard Middle English text. There are also translations, particularly Neville Coghill’s translation in Penguin Classics, or David Wright’s translation in Oxford World’s Classics.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

Look for other Literary History courses on our website under History, Culture and Writing/Literature at www.citylit.ac.uk.

Steven Breeze

Steven teaches medieval literature, including Old and Middle English, Old Norse literature, and modern interpretations of medieval works and the medieval period for the Culture and Humanities department at City Lit. He has taught at City Lit since 2013, and he also has experience teaching in higher education and in secondary schools. Steven completed a PhD at Birkbeck, University of London, in 2018, and has degrees in English and anthropology, a master’s degree in ethnomusicology and a PGCE. He is currently writing a book about performance in Old English poetry, which will be published in 2021 by Boydell and Brewer. In addition to his specialist work in Culture and Humanities, Steven also teaches in the Business and Technology department.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.