Class Requirements: Graded Course Work and Advice

Required Work:

Class attendance--this should be obvious, but when a seminar meets only once a week, unexcused absences are particularly damaging to the group's coherence and to the absent individual's ability to connect what happens in the next class to discussions in the missed class.  Especially when seats in a seminar are scarce and other students are on wait lists, waiting to be admitted, admitted students' unexcused absences insult their patience.  Excused absences due to illness, family emergencies, and other reasonable causes, are something we all understand and cope with the best we can.  Life is complex.  The absent student should warn the instructor and should be sure to contact students who were present to find out what happened, get duplicate handouts, web site URLs, etc.  In the past, I had threatened students with automatic reductions in their final grade for missing seminar meetings, but this seems absurd, in retrospect.  If students do not hear the seminar's discussion of the readings, their performance on papers and presentations will necessarily suffer as a result.  Please try to keep up.

Oral short passage practice and interpretation, in conference with me by the end of the second week of classes (C/NC)

Two in-class tale introductions at least one of which must be done by Spring Break (40%).  For guidelines and suggestions for how to present a good tale introduction, click here.  I will give additional credit to presentations which include prercorded parallel passage performances to show how an oral performer like Chaucer might alter the tone or even meaning of a passage by the way he said it.

Short paper interpreting some aspect of one tale, due on or before 5 PM by the first Sunday of Spring Break or sooner  (10%)  [If you absolutely need suggested page lengths, ask me.  Otherwise, write long enough to do what you are trying to do, and do it well.  Then stop.  In real-world publication, page minimums are never specified, but we often are told the page maximum.]

Annotated bibliography project (4 entries--see syllabus for schedule) (16%)  See below for advice about what I'm looking for, and look at the previous seminars' annotations for the best examples.

Final seminar paper dealing with an issue or phenomenon that occurs in more than one tale or in several parts of one of the longer tales (e.g., KT, WoBPro), due on or before Monday after classes end.   (30%)  [If you absolutely need suggested page lengths, ask me.  Otherwise, write long enough to do what you are trying to do, and do it well.  Then stop.  In real-world publication, page minimums are never specified, but we often are told the page maximum.]

Use of Secondary Scholarly Sources in Your Work:  I assume that students who have reached the seminar (300-) level now understand that secondary scholarly sources are used routinely in presentations and papers. That assumption is reflected in the importance assigned to the annotated bibliographies, which are intended to give you time to explore other scholars' work in search of allies and potential models for your paper's "best readers," competent readers of Chaucer who have not yet thought about your thesis and how it will affect their understanding of the text's meaning and/or significance.  Click here for general advice about how and where (in the paper) you should use scholarly sources, or click here for a quick way to use them to situate your paper's introduction of the thesis to your best readers.

Extra Credit: 

        Early Print Editions Project: The "early print edition report project" is something you can do for extra credit on your class participation grade.  I have it officially scheduled to start in Week 9 (4/1) but we can negotiate a better time.  Do this if you have specific interests in old books and the "reception history" of Chaucer and the tales of Canterbury.  That is, how did people in earlier eras read him?  You can do the work for this in an hour or so once you have done some background reading, read this hyperlinked short page of instructions about how to handle archival materials and talked to the Special Collections Librarian about scheduling your visit to Special Collections in advance.  That will prevent schedule collisions involving these scarce materials, which will insure that the book you want will be ready when you need it.  Seniors' reports are due by the Wednesday of exam week, and returning students' reports are due by the following Friday.  Extensions for returning students can be arranged, but senior grades are due much sooner.

        Contributions to the English 330 web page, for example: pages for individual tales which you are presenting to the class; images and MS samples you can find on the WWW (please use only hyperlinks in any instance in which the images are not specifically designated "Public Domain"; .wav files of yourself reading significant portions of a tale, perhaps one you are presenting (see CTLT for technical assistance); and any other creative, scholarly additions relevant to the study of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.  Please contact me if you plan to do this so we can agree upon its appropriateness, stylistic criteria for its execution, and suitable reward in the form of course credit.

        Annotated bibliography entries on scholarly articles in languages other than English are an important source of cultural perspective on Chaucer.  This is especially important in the case of an author whose cradle-tongue probably was French, and whose familiarity with French and Italian literature, in particular, formed a major influence upon his development as an artist.  German scholars also routinely publish on Chaucer's work, especially when it relates to German medieval literature.  Japanese, and Taiwanese scholars also are keenly interested in authors of the English medieval period because of certain marked similarities in cultural forms shared by those three societies.  For this reason, annotation (in English) of scholarly articles in languages other than English will be rewarded with extra credit, the amount to be negotiated between me and the annotator.

Primary Text:

The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd Edition, ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987). The 2nd edition, edited by Robinson, is an acceptable substitute but should be supplemented by Benson's introductions and annotation.  See the home page's main menu for advice about buying books for the course.

Secondary Texts:

English 330 web site (where you are now!), the seminar's cumulative Annotated Bibliographies of Research on Chaucer, the following external Internet sources: Labyrinth, ORBThe Medieval Review, Lumnarium, and various basic reference works on the course reserve list at Julia Rogers Library.

The Annotated Bibliography Project:

        To give you some idea of the richness and scope of Chaucer scholarship, and to help you prepare for your midterm seminar papers, you each will contribute five entries to an annotated bibliography for the course. The sources may be scholarly articles or peer-reviewed book chapters, but use common sense about their relevance to the course. If you are in doubt, call me and ask.  Since you will be sharing this resource, your efforts will be multiplied by those of everyone else in the class.  Entries must be recent (since 1987--after the Riverside Chaucer's publication) articles or book chapters relevant to the study of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, or they must be referred to by at least one such recent scholarly source as authoritative.

        Annotations should be posted each week by 9 AM on the Friday after the seminar meeting to the public folder for English 330. Please consult this web site's home page for previous seminar bibliographies for the kind of observations I am looking for, but beware their errors in MLA style--they were learners, and some of them preferred to guess rather then to look it up and learn it. Rest assured that it lowered their grades, though needlessly, and learn from the entries which took the time to do it correctly.  See this web page for advice about what makes a bibliographic annotation useful to other scholars. 

        Annotations will be evaluated for a concise and complete summary of the thesis; an informed and careful analysis of the argument; and a careful, independent analytical response suggesting how the piece might be useful to the seminar. Special attention will be paid to entries which take the time to test articles' theses against evidence of the tales themselves, rather than accepting the authors' assertions of proof without question.  If you find relationships or controversies with other scholars' work, that also will improve the annotation's quality.

        Though Chaucer scholarship is plentiful, Canterbury Tales scholarship which the library actually has may be more scarce. You can preview much of it by reading the yearly bibliographies of work on Chaucer published in the back of Studies in the Age of Chaucer (826.2 C49Zs). If two members of the seminar happen to seize on the same article simultaneously, no harm is done if you both do a good job. You also may choose to take issue with a previous annotation, so you may wish to begin by reading the earlier class bibliographies for entries that sound interesting.  Click here for some quick links to the library's online journal subscriptions that are likely to have articles relevant to Chaucer studies.

Chronological View

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