ENGL 5114 Medieval Lit: Chaucer, Gower, and Shakespeare

Fall Semester 2005

(first draft 8/16/05: subject to revision)

Course Info


Instructor: Daniel Mosser

Phone: (540) 231-7753


Office: Shanks 229

FAX: (540) 231-5692

CRN: 96065

Classroom: Shanks 242

Office Hours: 10:30-12 MW & by appointment

Class Time: 4-5:15PM MW

Class e-mail list: 5114@wiz.cath.vt.edu

This course will examine the influence of Chaucer and Gower on each other, and of their influence on Shakespeare. Readings include Chaucer's Knight's Tale; Man of Law's "Introduction," Prologue, and Tale; Wife of Bath's Tale; Legend of Good Women (the legends of Thisbe, Dido, Ariadne); the "Ceix and Alcione" section of The Book of the Duchess; Troilus and Criseyde; selections from John Gower's Confessio Amantis: "Tale of Florent," "Tale of Constance," "Tale of Canace and Machaire," "Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe," "Tale of Aeneas and Dido," "Tale of Ceix and Alceone," "Tale of Theseus and Ariadne," and "Apollonius of Tyre"; Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida; Pericles, Prince of Tyre; and The Two Noble Kinsmen.


[The Riverside can be purchased at the Tech Bookstore / 118 S. Main St. / 552-6444]


Benson, Larry, gen. ed. The Riverside Chaucer. Third Ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987.


William Shakespeare, Pericles, Cymbeline, The Two Noble Kinsmen (Signet paperback; ISBN: 0451522656)


William Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Shakespeare (Signet paperback; ISBN: 0451528476)

John Gower , Confessio Amantis (selections) (TEAMS text, available online)


Requirements & Evaluation

Class participation


Précis & discussion


Project & Presentation


Final Exam


Each of you will "present" or introduce one of our Reserve readings via an e-mail posted to the class list by midnight of the day before discussion of that material is scheduled. This will take the form of a précis of between two pages and one-third of the original. The précis methodology requires scrupulous neutrality towards the content and argument of the target piece of writing; however, in class you may provide us with your own reaction to and critique of the essay/article/chapter. If you have some particular interest in an approach to our texts not offered by the materials on reserve, you are welcome to propose an alternative and supply a copy to be placed on reserve.

On Reserve are several collections of essays, several books on Chaucer, Chaucer and Shakespeare, some articles on Gower and Shakespeare (some of the articles in PDF format and/or available through JSTOR). Your immediate job is to browse through these until you find an article/chapter of about 12-18 pages. It will be best to match the date of your presentation of the text that is focus of your selection to date(s) on which we will be discussing that primary text (e.g., your précis of a reading focusing on the House of Fame would be presented on one of the days we will be discussing the House of Fame). The primary areas where you are likely to take a mis-step are: (1) the requirement to maintain the point of view of the original in your précis (this means that you do not refer to the author in the third person, since for the purpose of the précis you are, in effect, that author); (2) length (You are stripping the argument of the original down to its bare bones: no illustrative examples, etc. You may also find that rearranging points of the argument will make the argument clearer. Your aim is no more than a third of the length of the original; shorter is better.). Please turn in a copy of the original piece (the subject of your précis) after the class during which you present it. [back]

Project and Presentation

The project should be very tightly focused on a specific problem, question, annotation, crux, or the like. Do not try to restructure the 'world of Chaucer or Shakespeare as we know it' (Gower is a bit more open); save that for your book. For the length envisioned, you are more likely to succeed if you examine a small detail thoroughly and specifically than if you tackle a large issue superficially. I am open to alternative projects, but we will want to negotiate those on an individual or small-group basis.

I think there is a tendancy to think that everything worth writing on Chaucer or Shakespeare has already been done. That is certainly not true, but a lot of the "low-lying fruit" has been plucked. The relationships this course explores, however--Chaucer, Gower, Shakespeare--still resembles the scholarly Wild West, as far as I can tell.

Partly to make sure you get going early enough and partly to help you polish your oral and performance skills, I am asking each of you to give a 15-minute presentation of your project. Doing this as a "work-in-progress" will allow you to get feedback in advance of the final draft. There are two different skills involved here: think of the material version--the "paper"--as publication, the presentation as a conference-type performance. You will be strictly held to fifteen minutes of class time for the presentation. As a basic rule of thumb, 10 pages of double-spaced text takes at least twenty minutes to read--too much for the time allotted. Another rule of thumb is that simply reading a paper out loud is deadly. Handouts, audio/visual aids, participatory exercises generally enhance a presentation and help to relax the presenter by diverting attention.
For hypertext projects, please consult the guidelines, evaluative criteria, and caveats at the web site at: http://wiz.cath.vt.edu/ht.assessment/

If you adopt the "traditional" essay form, aim for about 15 pages for the final draft. [back]


My grades are based on following scale:









Throughout the course of the semester, you will receive "points" corresponding to a version of this scale conforming to the percentage of the total grade a given assignment is worth. Thus the paper/project will be worth 40 points; the final exam 30 points; and each Netforum will be worth 4 point, participation 10 points. In a four point scale, for example, the grades break down as follows (for a 40-point scale, multiply each of the following values by 10):

4-point scale



















Thus if a student received a 'B,' on an assignment worth a possible 4 points, 3.4 points would be added to the cumulative grade, with 100 points being the number possible. If this student received perfect scores on everything else the final grade would be based on a cumulative score of 96.6 points out of 100 (an A+ in my book).



ENGL 5114 Schedule

Fall 2005

Mon., Aug. 22

Introductory sort of stuff: resources, language, etc.

Wed., Aug. 24

Knight's Tale

Mon. Aug. 29

Knight's Tale

Wed. Aug. 31

Two Noble Kinsmen, Acts I-II

Mon., Sept. 5

Two Noble Kinsmen, Acts III-V

Wed. Sept. 7

Legend of Good Women, "Legend of Ariadne"; Gower, "Tale of Theseus and Ariadne"

Mon., Sept. 12

Man of Law's "Introduction," Prologue, and Tale; Seth's précis ("The Man of Law's Introduction and Tale" from J.D. North's Chaucer's Universe, pp. 484-497)

Wed. Sept. 14

Gower: "Tale of Canace and Machaire" (Book III, lines 143-360): "Tale of Constance" (Book II, lines 587-1612)

Mon., Sept. 19

Wife of Bath's Tale (not the Prologue); Gower, "Tale of Florent" (Book 1, 1407-1861)

Wed. Sept. 21

Legend of Good Women, "Legend of Thisbe"; Gower, "Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe" (Book III, lines 1334-1502)

Mon., Sept. 26

Legend of Good Women, "Legend of Dido"; Gower, "Tale of Aeneas and Dido" (Book IV, lines 77-146; translation)

Wed. Sept. 28

Book of the Duchess, lines 1-290; Gower, "Tale of Ceix and Alceone" (Book IV, lines 2927-3175; translation)

Mon. Oct. 3

Mental Health Day

Wed. Oct. 5

Gower, "The Tale of Apollonius of Tyre" (Book VIII, lines 271-2028; a brief excerpt of this passage is printed on pp. 155-168 in the Signet text of Pericles); Pericles, Prince of Tyre, Acts 1-II (additional resource: Apollonius of Tyre: A Hypertext Edition [includes the Old English translation from the Latin text])

Mon. Oct. 10

Fall Break

Wed. Oct. 12

Finish Pericles; Drew's précis (Hoeniger, "Gower and Shakespeare in Pericles")

Mon. Oct. 17

Video 1767, "Pericles"

Wed. Oct. 19

Video 1767, "Pericles"

Mon. Oct. 24

Troilus and Criseyde, Book 1; Katey's précis (Barney, "Troilus Bound")

Wed. Oct. 26

T&C, Bk.II; Rebecca's précis

Mon. Oct. 31

T&C, Bk. III; Jordon's précis

Wed. Nov. 3

T&C, Bk. IV

Mon. Nov. 7

T&C, Bk. V

Wed. Nov. 9

Troilus and Cressida

Mon. Nov. 14

Troilus and Cressida

Wed. Nov. 16

Troilus and Cressida

Nov. 19-27
Thanksgiving Break

Mon. Nov. 28


Wed. Nov. 30


Mon. Dec. 5

Presentations: Rebecca & Katey; Seth

Wed. Dec. 7

Evaluations; Final Exam info. Projects due.

Tuesday, December 13: 3:25-5:25PM

Final Exam


Reserve materials and online resources

Secondary readings (online or on Reserve), some listed here:

David Anderson, "Theban History in Chaucer's Troilus," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 4 (1982): 109-133. Reserve PDF file.

R. A. Shoaf, ed., Troilus & Criseyde: "Subgit to alle Poesye" (1992). Reserve

Stephen A. Barney, "Troilus Bound" (1-16)
C. David Benson, "The Opaque Text of Chaucer's Criseyde" (17-28)
Shiela Delaney, "Techniques of Alienation in Troilus and Criseyde" (29-46)
Carolyn Dinshaw, "Reading Like a Man: The Critics, the Narrator, Troilus, and Pandarus" (47-73)
Robert R. Edwards, "Pandarus's 'Unthrift' and the Problem of Desire in Troilus and Criseyde" (74-87)
Louise O. Fradenburg, "'Our owen wo to drynke': Loss, Gender and Chivalry in Troilus and Criseyde" (88-106)
John M. Fyler, "The Fabrications of Pandarus" (107-119)
Robert W. Hanning, "Come in Out of the Code: Interpreting the Discourse of Desire in Boccaccio's Filostrato and Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde" (120-137)
John P. Hermann, "Gesture and Seduction in Troilus and Criseyde" (138-160)
Leonard Michael Koff, "Ending a Poem Before Beginning It, or The 'Cas' of Troilus" (161-178)
Rosemarie P. McGerr, "Meaning and Ending in a 'Paynted Proces': Resistance to Closure in Troilus and Criseyde" (179-198)
Richard Neuse, "Troilus and Criseyde: Another Dantean Reading" (199-210)
Larry Scanlon, "Sweet Persuasion: The Subject of Fortune in Troilus and Criseyde" (211-223)
Sarah Stanbury, "The Lover's Gaze in Troilus and Criseyde" (224-238)
Karla Taylor, "Inferno 5 and Troilus and Criseyde Revisited" (239-256)
David Wallace, "Troilus and the Filostrato: Chaucer as Translator of Boccaccio" (257-268)

Julian N. Wasserman and Robert J. Blanch, eds., Chaucer in the Eighties (1986). Reserve

Larry D. Benson, "The 'Love-Tydynges' in Chaucer's House of Fame" (3-22)
Renate Haas, "Chaucer's Use of the Lament for the Dead" (23-38)
Russell A. Peck, "Chaucerian Poetics and the Prologue to the Legend of Good Women (57-74)
Ruth M. Ames, "The Feminist Connections of Chaucer's Legend of Good Women" (75-92)
Sheila Delaney, "Rewriting Woman Good: Gender and the Anxiety of Influence in Two Late-Medieval Texts" (75-92)
Allen J. Frantzen, "The 'Joie and Tene' of Dreams in Troilus and Criseyde" (105-120)
Margaret Jennings, C.S.J., "To Pryke or to Prye: Scribal Delights in the Troilus, Book III (121-134)
Beryl Rowland, "Chaucer's Working Wyf: The Unraveling of a Yarn-Spinner" (137-150)
Martha Fleming, "Repetition and Design in the Wife of Bath's Tale" (151-163)
Shinsuke Ando, "The English Tradition in Chaucer's Diction" (163-174)
Robert J. Blanch and Julian N. Wasserman, "White and Red in the Knight's Tale: Chaucer's Manipulation of a Convention" (175-193)
William Kamowski, "Varieties of Response to Melibee, and the Clerk's Tale" (193-208)
Laurel Braswell, "Chaucer and the Art of Hagiography" (209-222)
Edward C. Schweitzer, "The Misdirected Kiss and the Lover's Malady in Chaucer's Miller's Tale" (223-234)
Thomas Hahn, "Money, Sexuality, Wordplay, and Context in the Shipman's Tale" (235-250)

Robert Edwards, The Dream of Chaucer (1989). Reserve

"Introduction" (1-16)
"The Practice of Theory" (17-40)
"The Narrator in Chaucer's Early Poem" (41-64)
"Imagination and Memory (I): The Book of the Duchess and the Beginnings of Chaucer's Narrative" (65-92)
"Imagination and Memory (II): The House of Fame" (93-122)
"Intellect: The 'Certeyn Thing' in the Parliament of Fowls" (123-146)
"A Chaucerian Prospect: From 'wonder thynges' to 'olde apreved stories'" (147-160)

Margaret Hallissy, Clean maids, true wives, steadfast widows : Chaucer's women and medieval codes of conduct (1993). Reserve

"The Three Estates of Women's Lives"
"'As men in bokes rede': The Giving of Rules to Women"
"Suffering Women and the Chaste Ideal"
"Perfect Virgin, Perfect Wife: Transition"
"'Silent tongue and still': Women's Speech and Domestic Harmony"
"The Gossip and the Shrew"
"The Good, the Bad, and the Wavering: Women and Architectural Space"
"'Superfluitee of clothynge': Women and Sartorial Excess"
"'Wel at ese': Widowhood"
"Summa Feminarum: The Archwife"
"Authority and Experience, Books and Life"

Carolyn Dinshaw, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics (1989). Reserve

"Chaucer's Sexual Poetics" (3-27)
"Reading Like a Man: The Critics, the Narrator, Troilus, and Pandarus" (28-64)
"'The naked text in English to declare': The Legend of Good Women" (65-87)
"The Law of Man and Its 'Abhomynacions': (88-112)
"'Glose/bele chose': The Wife of Bath and Her Glossators" (113-131)
"Griselda Translated" (132-155)
"Eunuch Hermeneutics" (156-184)

Donaldson, E. Talbot (Ethelbert Talbot). The swan at the well : Shakespeare reading Chaucer. New Haven : Yale University Press, c1985. PR2955.C53 D6 1985 Reserve

Thompson, Ann. Shakespeare's Chaucer : a study in literary origins. Liverpool : Liverpool University Press, 1978. PR2955.C53 T5 1978b Reserve

Andreas, James R. “Remythologizing The Knight’s Tale: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Two Noble Kinsmen.” Shakespeare Yearbook 2 (1991): 46-67. Reserve

Hillman Richard. "Shakespeare's Gower and Gower's Shakespeare: The Larger Debt of Pericles." Shakespeare Quarterly36 (1985): 427-437. Reserve

Hoeniger, F. David. "Gower and Shakespeare in Pericles." Shakespeare Quarterly33 (1982): 461-79. Reserve

Weatherbee, Winthrop. "Constance and the World in Chaucer and Gower." John Gower, Recent Readings: Papers Presented at the Meetings of the John Gower Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies. Ed. Robert F. Yeager. Kalamazoo: Western Michigan Univ., 1989. 65-93.




Muscatine, Charles. The book of Geoffrey Chaucer: an account of the publication of Geoffrey Chaucer's works from the fifteenth century to modern times. [San Francisco]: Book Club of California, 1963. [PR1939 M8 1963 SPEC/FOLIO]

Microfilms of the manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales: PR 1865 1986, reels 1-16
Microfilms of early printed books: Early English Books 1475-1640 [Z2002 U575]:

  • STC 5082: Caxton's 1477[?] ed. of the Canterbury Tales [Reel I-4]
  • STC 5083: Caxton's 1483[?] ed. of the Canterbury Tales [Reel I-1]
  • STC 5084: Pynson's 1492[?] ed. of the Canterbury Tales [Reel I-1]
  • STC 5085: Wynkyn de Worde's 1498 ed. of the Canterbury Tales [Reel I-4]
  • STC 5086: Pynson's 1526 ed. of the Canterbury Tales [Reel I-1]
  • STC 5087: Caxton's 1483 ed. of the House of Fame [Reel 1]
  • STC 5088: Pynson's 1526 ed. of the Boke of Fame [Reel 149]
  • STC 5098: "Jack vp Lande compyled by the famous G. Chaucer" 1536? [Reel 132]
  • STC 5099.5: Godfray's 1535[?] ed. of The Ploughman's Tale [Reel 1748]