Paper Writing Hints and Resources for English 240 and 330
General Reading and Writing Advice:
Reading to Write About Medieval Literature: general tips, good to think about before the semester begins and before you decide what you're going to write.
Using Concordances in the Study of Medieval Literature: words change meaning over time, and authors use words in ways peculiar to their deepest intentions (see "moiling" in Faulkner!)--to get a grip on an author's most intimate expression of meaning, concordances offer lists of every significant word (no articles & conjunctions) used in a work, or in the author's entire oeuvre.
Using Secondary Sources: how to make good use of sources that are not so obviously relevant to your intentions. For more on this skill, see the next item.
Library Research Techniques of the Professional Scholar: three valuable techniques for getting the best sources for literary research writing.
Understanding and Addressing Your "Best Reader" in a Literature Paper: why you should assume your reader has read your primary sources, how to begin the introduction and how to monitor your paper's focus when creating a thesis.
Discussions of Images and Symbols: how to tell whether you've really spotted an author's use of a symbol, and how to prove that to a reader; how to tell mere image patterns from symbols and what to do with the former.
Secondary Research Sources:
Vladimir Propp's The Morphology of the Folktale: Propp's Structuralist study of 100 Russian folk tales produced a set of structuring character-action units that, he argued, always occurred in the same order in every tale in which they occurred. His strategyh suggests strategies for comparative analysis of the Breton lais, either in a cluster of similar ones or the Middle English ones, as a surviving system of tales. The link is to a reduced set of Propp's structural units at the course web site for Sean Cubitt's Narrative and Hypermedia class at Waikato University (New Zealand). For further aid locating variant versions of medieval plots, consult the Peterson and Stampe Child Ballad page (see below) and/or Stith Thompson's folk-motif index, which is in the library's reference reserves.
The Chaucer Metapage home page. From it, you can access the online support materials for Chaucer courses taught at many institutions.
The Chaucer Metapage's audio file index, and scroll to the bottom. There you also can find an audio excerpt of The Book of the Duchess, and two excerpts from Troilus and Criseyde, the last work we'll read this semester.
The "Auchinleck Manuscript": an online edition of the complete manuscript which contains the texts of many Breton lais, as well as an interesting assortment of saints' lives and other devotional texts. The photographic facsimile images of the actual manuscript pages, as well as the meticulously edited transcriptions, are a wonderful resource.
The Dance of Death, a woodcut illustrated book (1538) by Hans Holbein: representations of death's ubiquity and equanimity illustrate the Church's challenge to feudal aristocrats assumptions of God-given privilege, and to its own hierarchical clerical apparatus (Death comes to the Pope first, of course, but it's an ambiguous honor). The DoD tradition probably influenced the author of Everyman and many other late-medieval works. [You can look up Holbein's wood cuts elsewhere A sample of them is available at the EuroWeb Web Gallery of Art.
Cathy Lynn Peterson (U. Colorado) and David Stampe's (U. Hawaii, Manoa) online version of the Dover edition of the "Child Ballads: Francis Child collected these ballads in the nineteenth century, mainly from oral performers, and not a few medieval romances survived in this form, sung to music, until the twentieth century when the popular revival of folk music returned them to popular performance. They are useful for Structuralist studies of the Breton lais and other romances as a test of how the plot and characters may have changed while preserving Levi-Strauss's fundamental "mythemes" or bundles of structural relationships (e.g., lover kills beloved by the riverside).
THE CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: an indispensable introduction for the undergraduate to the Church's view of its own beliefs, major figures, and most important events. It is not "scholarly" in the sense of being produced by scholars who are independent of papal authority, but it is a carefully checked, "doctrinally correct," vision of history. As a starting place, it's great.
THE VULGATE LATIN BIBLE: this was the text which would have been known to Christians in Chaucer's time, with the exception of the "Lollard" followers of GC's contemporary John Wycliff, who translated portions of it into Middle English despite the threat of execution for this heretical act. The Internet Sacred Texts Archive, which maintains this site, is a non-profit group promoting understanding of many religious traditions, and they offer reading texts from Eastern, Western, traditional and esoteric religions.
THE DOUAY-RHEIMS BIBLE: after Protestant translators began flooding Europe with contending vernacular translations (i.e., English, French, German, etc. vs. the Vulgate Latin), the Catholic Church fought back by producing what they claimed (and most modern scholars believe) was a more accurate, less thesis-motivated translation of the Vulgate. All medieval scholars typically quote the Douay-Rheims, as do renaissance scholars until 1604, when the newly crowned successor to Elizabeth, James I, ordered a new translation of the bible which bears his name. This site is maintained by Scriptours.com as a free demonstration site run by Abelware, a Christian software company, but the site's apparatus may contain unscholarly information (e.g., the reference to the language of the D-R text as "old English").
An online index to the first thirty years of articles published in The Chaucer Review. It's no substitute for the MLA Bibliography, but rather it does something different, giving you a concentrated view of this premier Chaucer studies journal's publications, kind of the Dow Jones Industrial Average of the business. Its brief annotations for each article will give you lots of ideas about ways Chaucer's works have been analyzed.
Midterm Paper Ideas and Comments from June 1998's Section of English 240--informal, sometimes cryptic, but usually leading to some good lines of analysis.
Final Paper Questions and Answers from June 1998's Section of English 240--they were tired, but they were good! These questions were asked when we were in the midst of reading the third book of Chaucer's Troilus.