Fall 2018 Courses – Undergrad Canterbury Tales

English 3112: Chaucer
Fall 2018, MW 12:50-2:05, Boylan 3408
Professor Karl Steel
Contact Information: ksteel AT brooklyn.cuny.edu | twitter @karlsteel
Office: Boylan 2157      Office Hours: MW 11:30-12:30, 2:15-3:15 MW, 5:15-6:15 Tues

“Diverse folk diversely they seyde
But for the moore part they loughe and pleyde.” (I.3857-3858)

We will read Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, a sprawling, unfinished masterpiece of fourteenth-century literature, which might be understood as compendium of most medieval genres: history, saints’ lives, dirty stories, and philosophy. You will learn to read Chaucer’s Middle English and to put digitized medieval manuscripts to use. We will also read Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales, a modern adaptation and response to Chaucer’s work.

Objectives: Students will develop skills in

  • Expressing ideas clearly in writing, including skills in grammar, organization, and revision
  • Understanding and analyzing literary writing, including the understanding of literature in its interdisciplinary contexts and the conventions of literary argumentation
  • Using theory and criticism to complicate and enrich their understanding of cultural materials
  • Using an academic library to find scholarly sources
  • Speaking effectively about cultural objects, including literature
  • Reading Middle English

Required Texts [link to buy books]

Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales: Seventeen Tales and the General Prologue, ed. V. A. Kolve and Glending Olson (Norton, 2018), ISBN: 9781324000563

Patience Agbabi, Telling Tales (Canongate Book, 2015)

The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales, ed. Candace Barrington, Brantley L. Bryant, Richard H. Godden, Daniel T. Kline, and Myra Seaman, https://opencanterburytales.dsl.lsu.edu/

The Canterbury Tales edition above is absolutely required. You might also get a modern English translation: I can’t recommend one, but they’re easy to find. We will be reading it in Chaucer’s Middle English.

Date Reading/Assignments
M 8/27 Introduction to Middle English
W 8/29 Reading: General Prologue: 410-44; Physician’s Tale 1-317
W 9/5 General Prologue: Finish It [sign up for presentations]
W 9/12 Knight’s Tale Part 1
First Paper Due
M 9/17 Knight’s Tale Part 2
First Day of Presentations
M 9/24 Knight’s Tale Part 3
W 9/26 Knight’s Tale Part 4
M 10/1 Miller’s Prologue and Tale
W 10/3 Reeve and Cook, Prologues and Tales
W 10/10 Man of Law, Prologue and First Half of Tale
M 10/15 Man of Law, Finish It
W 10/17 Wife of Bath, Prologue
M 10/22 Wife of Bath, Tale
W 10/24 Wife of Bath, Further Discussion
M 10/29 Telling Tales – first half
W 10/31 Telling Tales – finish it
M 11/5 Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo, The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey O!
First day second paper can be submitted
W 11/7 Clerk’s Prologue, First Third of Tale
M 11/12 Clerk’s Tale, Second Third
W 11/14 Clerk’s Tale, finish it
M 11/19 Franklin’s Prologue and Tale
W 11/21 Prioress / Thopas
Last Day of Presentations
M 11/26 Nun’s Priest
Last day second paper can be submitted
W 11/28 Summoner’s Tale and Friar’s Tale
M 12/3 Manciple’s Tale and Retractation
Questionnaire Due
W 12/5 Course Review 1
M 12/10 Final Paper Writing Workshop
Sample Paragraph / Annotated Bibliography Due
W 12/12 Course Review 2 / Review for Final
W 12/19 Final Paper Due – Expanded and thorough revision of one of earlier papers

Attendance is required. You are allowed 3 absences for whatever reason without penalty. Your grade will be penalized one grade step (eg, from a B+ to a B) for every absence after the third. Be on time!

You are expected to have done all the Reading and to be prepared to talk about it. Bring the day’s reading to class.

For a good Participation grade, be respectful of and – especially! – be engaged in the class discussion. Phones and computers can be used only to take notes or to look something up for class.

Note regarding Student Disability Services:

I am committed to providing accommodations for students with disabilities. If you are disabled or suspect you may have a disability, the Director of the Center for Student Disability Services, contact Valerie Stewart-Lovell (718-951-5538, vstewart@brooklyn.cuny.edu, 138 Roosevelt Hall Building) to have your disability documented, as this will ensure you receive the accommodation that it is your right to receive. Do not hesitate to appeal to Stewart-Lovell’s office if you are not receiving accommodations for a documented disability.


Participation: 5%
Weekly Blackboard writing: 15%
Presentation+ Presentation Paper: 15%
Short Writing Assignments: 20%
Questionnaire: 5%
Sample Paragraph/Annotated Bibliography: 5%
Final Paper: 25%
Final: 10%