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    Vassar College
  Feb 17, 2018
Catalogue 2017-2018
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ENGL 237 - Chaucer

Semester Offered: Fall
1 unit(s)

This course serves as an introduction to Chaucer, as well as an introduction to Middle English. We explore portions of Chaucer’s best-known work, The Canterbury Tales, alongside his other masterpiece, Troilus and Criseyde, and an assortment of “dream visions,” including The House of Fame. In doing so, we situate Chaucer within a broader international context and chart out French, Italian, and Latin influences, including Dante, Boethius, and Boccaccio. We also explore contemporary reactions to Chaucer – and witness how Chaucer’s works were transformed and responded to in the years following his death.

No prior experience with Middle English is needed. We  read slowly and carefully, and track Chaucer’s dynamic experiments with a molten language. Our areas of exploration include: the role of gender and sexuality in Chaucer’s work; heresy and religious debate; self-censorship, and the limits of “free” expression; translation and adaptation; poetic authority; and the complexities of interweaving fiction, philosophy, fart jokes, and pseudo-autobiographical “I” narrators. We see Chaucer himself dangle from the talons of an eagle. We see him pen a masterwork, and then immediately disavow it. When all is said and done, we see Chaucer stumble his way to the helm of English literature. Sebastian Langdell.


Two 75-minute periods.

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