ENGL 5224
Early English Authors: Chaucer

Office: Shanks 229
Class: Shanks 242
Time: 11-12:15 TR
Phone: 231-7753
CRN 17054

Office Hours:
2-3 TR and by appt.


While the fourteenth century was different from our own time and in many ways alien, foreign, unfamiliar, and strange, we can nevertheless find much that is familiar, conveyed through texts that seem curiously modern, even postmodern.

We will consider the nature of the medieval text, the contingent circumstances of its composition, production, dissemination, and reception. We will struggle, always, usually vainly, to locate the “voice of Chaucer” within the ironic universe of his creations. Chaucer’s exploration of the nature of language–of the crucial roles of context, intention, and contingency in the construction of meaning–will be a primary focus of our reading and discussion.


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


Class Participation 15%
Presentation of Reading 25%
Project Presentation 15%
Project 45%



(Tentative: 12/29/09)

Tues., January 19 Introduction to course and materials
Thurs., January 21 Book of the Duchess, lines 1-474
Tues., January 26 Book of the Duchess, lines 475-1334 (end)
Thurs., January 28 House of Fame, Book 1
Tues., February 2 House of Fame, Books 2 & 3
Thurs., February 4 Legend of Good Women, Prologue(s)
Tues., February 9 Legend of Good Women, "Legends" 1-4
Thurs., February 11 Legend of Good Women, "Legends" 5-9
Tues., February 16 Parliament of Fowls
Thurs., February 18 "Complaint unto Pity" (p. 640-1); "A Complaint unto His Lady" (642-3); "Complaint of Mars" (642-7); "Complaint of Venus" (648-9); "To Rosemounde" (649); "Womanly Noblesse" (649-50)
Tues., February 23 "Chaucer's Wordes unto Adam, His Owne Scriveyne" (650); "The Former Age" (650-1); "Fortune" (652-3); "Truth" (653); "Gentilesse" (654); "Lak of Stedfastenesse" (654); "Lenvoy de Chaucer a Scogan" (655); "Lenvoy de Chaucer a Bukton" (655-6); "The Complaint of Chaucer to His Purse" (656)
Thurs., February 25 Wife of Bath's Prologue & Tale
Tues., March 2 Friar's Tale; Mary Papadopoulos
Thurs., March 4 Summoner's Tale; Sarah Grant
March 6-14
Spring Break
Tues., March 16 Shipman's Tale & Tale of Thopas
Thurs., March 18
Tale of Melibee; Victoria Brooks
Tues., March 23 Nun's Priest's Tale; Pearl Blevins
Thurs., March 25 No class
Tues., March 30 Second Nun's Tale & Canon's Yeoman's Tale
Thurs., April 1 Manciple's Tale, Parson's Prologue, & Retractions
Tues., April 6 Troilus & Criseyde, Book 1 (Jennifer Pavlak)
Thurs., April 8 Troilus & Criseyde, Book 2
Tues., April 13 Troilus & Criseyde, Book 3
Thurs., April 15 Troilus & Criseyde, Book 4
Tues., April 20 Troilus & Criseyde, Book 5
Tues., April 22 (Daniel Helbert on Book 5 of Troilus); Robert Hennryson's Testament of Cresseid
Thurs., April 27 Presentations: Mary; Victoria
Thurs., April 29 Presentations: Daniel & Pearl; Jennifer; Sarah
Tues., May 4 Evaluations


Presentation of Reading

Each of you will "present" or introduce one of our readings via an e-mail posted to the class Resources site at Scholar by midnight of the day before discussion of that material is scheduled. In this introduction, you should briefly summarize what the work is "about"; describe some of the current trends in scholarship on the work; and pose a specific question we might consider in the course of our discussion. Some resources to aid you in this endeavor include the online SAC (Studies in the Age of Chaucer) Online Bibliography, those editions of the Variorum Chaucer that have appeared (the introductions to these volumes usually provide a very helpful summary of scholarly trends up to the time of publication), the prefatory materials and explanatory notes sections of the Riverside, and the MLA International Bibliography. Aim for 1000-1500 words.

Secondary readings (online or on Reserve: listed under 5114), 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)


  • On-line Canterbury Tales (Librarius)
  • Online edition of The General Prologue (ed. Edwin Duncan)
  • Michael Murphy's Canterbury Tales in modern spelling (General Prologue, Wife of Bath's, Clerk's, Merchant's, and Franklin's Tales; requires Acrobat Reader)
  • Chaucer site at Harvard (contains info on Chaucer's life, language, science, etc.)
  • Mosser, The Evolution of Present-Day English
  • Boethius, Consolation of Philosophy pp. 48-55 (Fame and Fortune); pp. 126-139 (Fate & Providence); Book 5 (pp. 140-end: Chance, Free Will, Destiny, Eternity)
  • A Basic Chaucer Glossary
  • Glossarial Database of Middle English
  • The Middle English Compendium
  • Oxford English Dictionary
  • MLA Bibliography
  • International Medieval Bibliography
  • ITER Bibliography
  • The SAC Online Chaucer Bibiography
  • The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • Douay-Rheims English Translation of the Latin Vulgate Bible
  • Patristics site where you can find the text of Jerome adversus Jovinian in translation
  • TEAMS texts
  • Bullfinch's Mythology