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Semester 1

The Canterbury Tales (ENLI10080)

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English Literature





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Visiting students must have completed 4 English Literature courses at grade B or above. We will only consider University/College level courses, and we do not consider civilisation & other interdisciplinary courses, freshman seminars, writing/composition courses or film/cinema/media courses; visiting students who have taken multiple courses in literature in other languages, should have passed at least one course in English Literature as well. Applicants should note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission, and priority will be given to students studying on exchange within English Literature. **This is a *Core* course. Please note that students can only enrol in one Core and/or one Option 3rd year English Literature course per semester, with no exception. Students enrolled in this course therefore cannot enrol in any further Core* courses during this semester** Please note that 3rd year English Literature courses are high-demand, meaning that they have a very high number of students wishing to enrol in a very limited number of spaces. Visiting students are advised to bear in mind that enrolment in specific courses can never be guaranteed, and you may need to be flexible in finding alternatives in case your preferred courses have no available space. These enrolments are managed strictly by the Visiting Student Office, in line with the quotas allocated by the department, and all enquiries to enrol in these courses must be made through the CAHSS Visiting Student Office. It is not appropriate for students to contact the department directly to request additional spaces.

Course Summary

The course introduces students to Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, a key text of the English middle ages and one of the most accessible yet challenging works of medieval literature in English. It explores the range of individual tales, and the social and pilgrimage frameworks, that unite the whole. Topics considered include the different narrative kinds and modes employed in the tales, the focus on issues of gender, desire and marriage, and the playful yet sophisticated reflection upon the act of storytelling itself.

Course Description

The Canterbury Tales is both one of the most accessible and also one of the most challenging works of medieval literature. It offers a rich and varied story collection, within the framework of a social and spiritual pilgrimage. The individual stories spread across a wide spectrum of tone, and of genre, woven by parallel and contrast, theme and narration, into an intricate and complex whole. The aim of the course is to explore a range of different individual tales, within the context of the work as a whole. So it will look at the different narrative kinds and modes used by the pilgrim storytellers: romances, parodies, farcical fabliaux, comic fables, and moral and religious tales. Among the themes that will be explored are the recurrent and insistent focus of the tales on gender relations, as well as on courtly love and romantic desire, and the strikingly different responses of men and women to the institution of marriage. But in addition to the tales engagement with the social and cultural life of the time, they also draw attention to themselves as narratives, and in so doing both reflect upon and question the nature of storytelling itself. This literary self-consciousness which is both playful and sophisticated is central to The Canterbury Tales, and will be one of the central concerns of the course. Moreover, in the collection overall, the social and cultural significance of fourteenth-century pilgrimage interacts with the literary notion of the quest, and the ultimate spiritual significance of pilgrimage itself. And throughout the duration of the course we will examine the different ways in which literary and religious models and idea overlap and intersect.

Assessment Information

Written Exam 0%, Coursework 100%, Practical Exam 0%

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