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When we trace the "Age of Chaucer" we will find that it is full of considerable number of religious, social and political events that profoundly influenced Chaucer himself and induced him to produce great masterpieces of Arts that contributed to English language at that time. Thus, it is very important to discuss the periods that England, at that time, went through and their intimate relations with the Age of Chaucer in order to understand fully the background of this age.

This course surveys the literature of late-medieval England, focusing on the so-called “Ricardian” era, corresponding to the reign of Richard II (1377-1399). In this relatively brief period, a number of outstanding poets and writers—notably Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, William Langland, and the anonymous author known as the “Gawain-poet,” among others—produced a remarkable variety of outstanding literary works in many genres. This output occurred amid broader traditions of medieval literary art, including religious and secular lyric, dream vision poems, the popular religious drama known as “mystery plays,” the writing of religious mystics and visionaries, the long tradition of chivalric romance leading to Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur, historical chronicle, and the scurrilous comic tales known as fabliaux.

A main goal of the course will be to familiarize students with reading Middle English, the immediate forerunner of Modern English. Works in the standard London dialect of Middle English, including the poetry of Chaucer, will be read in annotated editions of the original texts. Some works in less familiar dialects, including the works of the Gawain-poet, will be read in Modern English translations.

The focus in the first half of the course will be on non-Chaucerian material in various genres. Throughout, the literature will be considered within its social and historical contexts, with special attention to representations of social order, and challenges to that order, notably the Great Rebellion of 1381. The second half of the course focuses on Chaucer’s poetry and particularly on the Canterbury Tales, with attention to the ways in which Chaucer echoes and responds to the literary styles and themes and social events of his time.

The prerequisites for the course are EN11 and EN12 or the equivalent and at least one 100-level English literature course, or the permission of the instructor.

Students are required to attend all class meetings. If you have to miss a class for a foreseeable obligation, inform me beforehand. I also expect all students to have fulfilled the assignment and to be prepared to participate in class discussion.

For most class meetings, students will write a response paper, about a page in length, on the assigned readings. These are not graded, but are required. Responses papers are intended both to give more practice in writing and to facilitate class discussion, so late response papers cannot be accepted. Students will collect their response papers in a folder throughout the semester. At the end of the course, students will review their portfolio of response papers and submit them along with a summative essay analyzing how their views of the materials and topics have evolved over the course of the semester.

Secondary critical sources are not required for the essay assignments in this course. On any assignment, however, you must fully cite any sources that you use. The source must appear in the list of works cited at the end of the essay, and each source must be cited on every occasion that you make use of its words or ideas. This is true if the source is your primary source (the text you are studying) or a critical source (an analysis of the work published elsewhere), and it is true if the source is printed or electronic, including internet sources. Follow the MLA style of in-text citation and lists of works cited described in A Pocket Style Manual, pp. 128-148. The failure to fully cite sources within your submitted work is a form of plagiarism. Plagiarism is the appropriation of ideas, data, work, or language of others and submitting them as one’s own to satisfy the requirements of a course. Plagiarism constitutes theft and deceit. Special care should be taken, when cutting and pasting materials or when paraphrasing, to cite sources correctly and to use quotation marks around exact words from source materials. Actions that result in plagiarism may be intentional or unintentional. Consequently, students must understand the concept of plagiarism. When reading, processing, or using materials from any source, appropriate documentation is always essential.

The consequences of plagiarism may range from failure on the assignment to failure for the course and university disciplinary action. Resources such as the library (ext. 2178) and the Writing Center (www.fairfield.edu/writingcenter) are available on campus to assist you in your academic endeavors. You are encouraged to take advantage of these resources.

There will be two critical essays, each about 6-7 pages long, due during the semester. The first essay will address the non-Chaucerian material. In the second essay will compare and contrast any Chaucerian text to any of the non-Chaucerian texts from the first half of the course. The final exam will cover material from the entire semester.

All submitted papers should follow the Modern Language Association (MLA) guidelines for formatting a paper. These guidelines can be found in the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th ed., which is available in the Reference Section of the library and in the Writing Center. They are also summarized on pp. 119-154 of Diana Hacker’s Pocket Style Manual. When commenting on your essays, I will refer to Hacker on matters of format and style.

The Canterbury Tales is a collection of stories written in Middle English by Geoffrey Chaucer at the end of the 14th century. The tales (mostly written in verse although some are in prose) are told as part of a story-telling contest by a group of pilgrims as they travel together on a journey from Southwark to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket at Canterbury Cathedral. The prize for this contest is a free meal at the Tabard Inn at Southwark on their return.

Following a long list of works written earlier in his career, including Troilus and Criseyde, House of Fame, and Parliament of Fowls, the Canterbury Tales was Chaucer's magnum opus. He uses the tales and the descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church. Structurally, the collection resembles The Decameron, which Chaucer may have read during his first diplomatic mission to Italy in 1372.


The question of whether The Canterbury Tales is finished has not yet been answered. The combined elements of Chaucer's quadri-lingual expertise in law, philosophy, and other subjects, the uncertainty of medieval English historical records, issues of manuscript transmission, and Chaucer's method of telling his stories through a multi-perspective prism of subjectivity make the "Tales" extremely difficult to interpret. There are 83 known manuscripts of the work from the late medieval and early Renaissance period, more than any other vernacular literary text with the exception of The Prick of Conscience. This is taken as evidence of the tales' popularity during the century after Chaucer's death.[1] Fifty-five of these manuscripts are thought to have been complete at one time, while 28 are so fragmentary that it is difficult to ascertain whether they were copied individually or as part of a set.[2] The Tales vary in both minor and major ways from manuscript to manuscript; many of the minor variations are due to copyists' errors, while others suggest that Chaucer added to and revised his work as it was being copied and (possibly) distributed. No official, unarguably complete version of the Tales exists and no consensus has been reached regarding the order in which Chaucer intended the stories to be placed.[3][4]

Textual and manuscript clues have been adduced to support the two most popular methods of ordering the tales.Some scholarly editions divide the Tales into ten "fragments." The tales that comprise a fragment are closely related and contain internal indications of their order of presentation, usually with one character speaking to and then stepping aside for another character. Between fragments, however, the connection is less obvious. Consequently, there are several possible tales orders, the most popular of which is as follows:[

An alternative ordering (seen in an early manuscript containing the Canterbury Tales, the early-fifteenth century Harley MS. 7334) places Fragment VIII before VI. However, the order indicated above follows that of some other early manuscripts, most notably the Ellesmere Manuscript. Fragments I and II almost always follow each other, as do VI and VII, IX and X in the oldest manuscripts. Fragments IV and V, by contrast are located in varying locations from manuscript to manuscript. Victorians would frequently move Fragment VII(B2) to follow Fragment II(B1), which was the order used by Walter William Skeat whose edition Chaucer: Complete Works was used by Oxford University Press for most of the twentieth century, but this order is no longer followed and has no justification.[3] Even the earliest surviving manuscripts are not Chaucer's originals, the oldest being MS Peniarth 392 D (called "Hengwrt"), compiled by a scribe shortly after Chaucer's death. The scribe uses the order shown above, though he does not seem to have had a full collection of Chaucer's tales, so parts are missing. The most beautiful of the manuscripts of the tales is the Ellesmere Manuscript, and many editors have followed the order of the Ellesmere over the centuries, even down to the present day.[5][6] The first version of the Canterbury Tales to be published in print was William Caxton's 1478 edition. Since this print edition was created from a now-lost manuscript, it is counted as among the 83 manuscripts

The variety of Chaucer's tales shows the breadth of his skill and his familiarity with countless rhetorical forms and linguistic styles. Medieval schools of rhetoric at the time encouraged such diversity, dividing literature (as Virgil suggests) into high, middle, and low styles as measured by the density of rhetorical forms and vocabulary. Another popular method of division came from St. Augustine, who focused more on audience response and less on subject matter (a Virgilian concern). Augustine divided literature into "majestic persuades", "temperate pleases", and "subdued teaches". Writers were encouraged to write in a way that kept in mind the speaker, subject, audience, purpose, manner, and occasion. Chaucer moves freely between all of these styles, showing favoritism to none. He not only considers the readers of his work as an audience, but the other pilgrims within the story as well, creating a multi-layered rhetorical puzzle of ambiguities. Chaucer's work thus far surpasses the ability of any single medieval theory to uncover.[24]

With this Chaucer avoids targeting any specific audience or social class of readers, focusing instead on the characters of the story and writing their tales with a skill proportional to their social status and learning. However, even the lowest characters, such as the Miller, show surprising rhetorical ability, although their subject matter is more lowbrow. Vocabulary also plays an important part, as those of the higher classes refer to a woman as a "lady", while the lower classes use the word "wenche", with no exceptions. At times the same word will mean entirely different things between classes. The word "pitee", for example, is a noble concept to the upper classes, while in the Merchant's Tale it refers to sexual intercourse. Again, however, tales such as the Nun's Priest's Tale show surprising skill with words among the lower classes of the group, while the Knight's Tale is at times extremely simple.[25]

Chaucer uses the same meter throughout almost all of his tales, with the exception of Sir Thopas and his prose tales. It is a decasyllable line, probably borrowed from French and Italian forms, with riding rhyme and, occasionally, a caesura in the middle of a line. His meter would later develop into the heroic meter of the 15th and 16th centuries and is an ancestor of iambic pentameter. He avoids allowing couplets to become too prominent in the poem, and four of the tales (the Man of Law's, Clerk's, Prioress', and Second Nun's) use rhyme royal.

2………Narration and Structure: the Frame Tale

.......The Canterbury Tales has one overall narrator, Chaucer himself in the persona of the first pilgrim, who presents his account in first-person point of view. In the general prologue, he establishes the time of the year, April, then begins telling the story about the pilgrimage to Canterbury. After describing the pilgrims gathering at their point point of departure—the Tabard Inn, across the Thames River from central London—he reports a proposal by their host, the proprietor of the Tabard, that the pilgrims tell stories on their journey to pass the time. Upon their return, the pilgrim deemed the best storyteller would receive a meal paid for by his companions. The proprietor, Harry Bailly (spelled Bailey or Bailley in some editions of The Canterbury Tales), says he would accompany the pilgrims, acting as their tour guide. The pilgrims enthusiastically approve his proposal.  ......Chaucer then allows the pilgrims to narrate their tales. They tell them in third-person point of view. Between their stories, Chaucer resumes his narration, reporting the discourse of the pilgrims and the words of Harry Bailly when he introduces the next storyteller. Thus, The Canterbury Tales consists of stories within a story. Bailly plays a crucial role in The Canterbury Tales. With his questions and comments, he stimulates conversation that helps to reveal the personalities and attitudes of the pilgrims.  .......Scholars label as frame tales literary works that present a story (or stories) within another story. The inner story is like a painting on a canvas; the outer story is like the frame of the painting. In The Canterbury Tales, the inner stories told by the pilgrims form the images on the canvas; the outer story told by Chaucer forms the frame. The frame tale was not unique to Chaucer. Among other literary works with this format were The Seven Sages, a collection of tales (authors and dates of composition not established) originating in India that spread westward; The Thousand and One Nights, a collection of tales (authors and dates of composition not established) from India, Persia, Arabia, and Egypt, including the famous stories about Aladdin, Ali Baba, and Sindbad the Sailor; Samuel Taylor Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness (1902).

A prologue, sometimes referred to as a preface, is an introduction at the beginning of a literary work. This type of introduction generally gives information to the reader or audience, assisting in the ability to understand what is to follow in the main body of the work. A prologue may introduce the setting, preview the characters, or establish a theme or moral for the work. Examples of this can be found in Greek and Elizabethan drama. In a play, a prologue often takes the form of a character’s monologue or dialogue.

Traditionally, a prologue sets the scene for what is to come in the novel or play. The prologue gives the reader a sense of what the story is about before … I don't have anything remarkable to write today, but I did want to shar

3. The Renaissance (UK: /rɨˈneɪsəns/, US: /ˈrɛnɨsɑːns/, French pronunciation: [ʁənɛsɑ̃ːs], Italian: Rinascimento, French: Renaissance, from rinascere "to be reborn")[1] was a cultural movement that spanned the period roughly from the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. Though the invention of printing sped the dissemination of ideas from the later 15th century, the changes of the Renaissance were not uniformly experienced across Europe. As a cultural movement, it encompassed innovative flowering of Latin and vernacular literatures, beginning with the 14th-century resurgence of learning based on classical sources, which contemporaries credited to Petrarch, the development of linear perspective and other techniques of rendering a more natural reality in painting, and gradual but widespread educational reform. In politics the Renaissance contributed the development of the conventions of diplomacy, and in science an increased reliance on observation that would flower later in the Scientific Revolution beginning in the 17th century. Traditionally, this intellectual transformation has resulted in the Renaissance being viewed as a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. Although the Renaissance saw revolutions in many intellectual pursuits, as well as social and political upheaval, it is perhaps best known for its artistic developments and the contributions of such polymaths as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo, who inspired the term "Renaissance man".[2][3]

There is a consensus that the Renaissance began in Florence, Tuscany in the 14th century.[4] Various theories have been proposed to account for its origins and characteristics, focusing on a variety of factors including the social and civic peculiarities of Florence at the time; its political structure; the patronage of its dominant family, the Medici;[5][6] and the migration of Greek scholars and texts to Italy following the Fall of Constantinople at the hands of the Ottoman Turks.[7][8][9]

The Renaissance has a long and complex historiography, and in line with general scepticism of discrete periodizations, there has been much debate among historians reacting to the 19th-century glorification of the "Renaissance" and individual culture heroes as "Renaissance men", questioning the usefulness of Renaissance as a term and as a historical delineation.[10] The art historian Erwin Panofsky observed of this resistance to the concept of Renaissance

It is perhaps no accident that the factuality of the Italian Renaissance has been most vigorously questioned by those who are not obliged to take a professional interest in the aesthetic aspects of civilization— historians of economic and social developments, political and religious situations, and, most particularly, natural science— but only exceptionally by students of literature and hardly ever by historians of Art.[11]


Main article: English Renaissance

"What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!" — from William Shakespeare's Hamlet.

In England, the Elizabethan era marked the beginning of the English Renaissance with the work of writers William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Edmund Spenser, Sir Thomas More, Francis Bacon, Sir Philip Sidney, John Milton, as well as great artists, architects (such as Inigo Jones who introduced Italianate architecture to England), and composers such as Thomas Tallis, John Taverner, and William Byrd.


  • Isaac Newton

  • Francis Bacon

  • Giordano Bruno

  • Nicolaus Copernicus

  • Nicholas of Cusa

  • Marsilio Ficino

  • Francesco Guicciardini

  • Niccolò Machiavelli

  • Pico della Mirandola

  • Michel de Montaigne

  • Robert Boyle

  • Cornelis Drebbel

4. Thomas More

Thomas More, the first English humanist of the Renaissance, was born in London in 1478. Educated at Oxford, he could write a most beautiful Latin. It was not the Latin of the Church but the original classical Latin. At Oxford More met a foreign humanist, and made friends with him. Erasmus believed in the common sense of a man and taught that men ought to think for themselves, and not merely to believe things to be true because their fathers, or the priest had said they were true. Later, Thomas More wrote many letters to Erasmus and received many letters from him.

Thomas More began life as a lawyer. During the reign of Henry VII he became a member of Parliament. He was an active-minded man and kept a keen eye on the events of his time. The rich landowners at the time were concentrating on sheep-raising because it was very profitable. Small holders were not allowed to till the soil and were driven off their lands. The commons (public ground) were enclosed and fields converted into pastures. The mass of the agricultural population were doomed to poverty. Thomas More set to work to find the reason of this evil. He was the first great writer on social and political subjects in England.

Fourteen years after Henry VIII came to the throne, More was made Speaker of the House of Commons. The Tudor monarchy was an absolute monarchy, and Parliament had very little power to resist the king. There was, however, one matter on which Parliament was very determined. That was the right to vote or to refuse to vote for the money. Once when the King wanted money and asked Parliament to vote him 800.000, the members sat silent. Twice the King's messengers called, and twice they had to leave without an answer. When Parliament was called together again, Thomas More spoke up and urged that the request be refused. After a long discussion a sum less then half the amount requested by the King was voted, and that sum was to be spread over a period of four years. Thomas More was an earnest Catholic, but he was not liked by the priests and the Pope on account of his writings and the ideas he taught. After Henry VIII quarrelled with the Pope he gathered around himself all the enemies of the Pope, and so in 1529 More was made Lord Chancellor (highest judge to the House of Lords). He had not wanted the post because he was as much against the king's absolute power in England as he was against the Pope. More soon fell a victim to the King's anger. He refused to swear that he would obey Henry as the head of the English Church, and was thrown into the Tower. Parliament, to please the King, declared More guilty of treason, and he was beheaded in the Tower in 1535.

The Works of Thomas More Thomas More wrote in English and in Latin. The humanists of al1 European countries communicated in the Latin language, and their best works were written in Latin. The English writings of Thomas More include: * Discussions and political subjects. * Biographies. * Poetry.

His style is simple, colloquial end has an unaffected ease. The work by which he is best remembered today is "Utopia" which was written in Latin in the year 1516. It has now been translated into all European languages.

"Utopia" (which in Greek means "nowhere") is the name of a non-existent island. This work is divided into two books. In the first, the author gives a profound and truthful picture of the people's sufferings and points out the socia1 evils existing, in England at the time.

In the second book More presents his ideal of what the future society should be like.

The word "utopia" has become a byword and is used in Modern English to denote an unattainable ideal, usually in social and political matters. But the writer H.G. Wells, who wrote an introduction to the latest edition, said that the use of the word "utopia" was far from More's essentia1 quality, whose mind abounded in sound, practical ideas. The book is in reality a very unimaginative work.

"Utopia" describes a perfect social system built on communist principles.

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