SoSe 14: Medieval English Literatures-HS:The Canterbury Tales: The Gentils
Andrew James Johnston
The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387) is Geoffrey Chaucer's best-known work. A collection of shorter narratives - almost all of them in verse - the Tales plays a major role in the development of what we ... Lesen Sie weiter
The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387) is Geoffrey Chaucer's best-known work. A collection of shorter narratives - almost all of them in verse - the Tales plays a major role in the development of what we nowadays consider the canon of English literature and - not least because of its obvious affinities with Giovanni Boccaccio's Decamerone - simultaneously stakes a claim for English letters within the wider context of European literature.
Yet for all its indisputable canonicity the Tales is far more than a mere showcase of medieval poetic and narrative styles and genres. It betrays a fascination with tension and conflict, with debate and self-questioning that must needs undermine all facile attempts to install the Tales and its author in the straightforward position of the fons et origo of an uninterrupted, glorious tradition of English literature. On the contrary, the Canterbury Tales presents itself as a rigorous investigation into such diverse issues as the role of tradition and history for literature, the problem of social conflict and its representation in literature, the tensions between religion and aesthetics, the power and limitations of ideology, and the relationship between gender and authority, to name but a few.
Since even in its unfinished form the Canterbury Tales is a vast and sprawling work, this course will teach only half of the tales - i.e., those told by figures with aristocratic pretensions - while the other half will be dealt with in the tutorial. Students are strongly advised to attend both the Hauptseminar and the tutorial. The two courses form a unity making it possible to read and understand the Tales as a whole.
Students are expected to have acquired an edition of the complete text by the first session of the course. This edition must be in the original Middle English and possess a full-fledged critical apparatus. Texts not meeting these standards will not be accepted in class. I recommend either the Riverside Chaucer (Larry D. Benson, ed., Oxford UP, 1988) or the Penguin Classics edition (Jill Mann, ed., Penguin, 2005).
Since students will be given the opportunity to prove their knowledge of the text in a series of tests (beginning in the third week) spread over the whole semester, they are expected to have read the Canterbury Tales from beginning to end at least once before the course starts.
The course will be taught in English, level C1 is required.