English 505: Chaucer in Context
Summer 2009

MW 5:30-10:00 PM

Peck 3311


Professor Nancy Ruff

Peck 2224, x 3649

Office hours:  MW 2:30-3:30 and by appt.

Email: nruff@siue.edu


Description:    This course will focus on Chaucer's literary works in the intellectual and historical context of his time.  In addition to reading Chaucer's works, we will explore that Chaucer himself knew well, by authors such as Virgil, Ovid, Boethius, Dante, Boccaccio, Petrarch, Gower, Langland, and the Church fathers.

Objective:  This course aims to familiarize students with Chaucer's works and the ideas and texts that lie behind and beside them.

Texts:   The Riverside Chaucer  (purchase)

         Any translation of the following:  (purchase or borrow)  

             Virgil's Aeneid. (Translation by Sarah Ruden suggested)
Consolation of Philosophy


          Other works we will be consulting (available in Lovejoy Library and/or the Web):


           Alighieri, Dante. The Divine ComedyOvid's Metamorphoses; Heroides; Amores
Augustine of Hippo.  Confessions; City of God.          

           Boccaccio, Giovanni. Decameron, Il Filocolo, Il Teseida

           Capellanus, Andreas (Andrι le chapelain).  On Love

           de Meun, Jean. The Romance of the Rose
           de Pisan, Christine.  The City of Ladies; The Treasury of the City of Ladies.

           de Troyes, Chrιtien.  The Quest of the Holy Grail. Gower, John.  Confessio Amantis, Le Mirroire de l'Homme

           Froissart, Jean. Chronicles.          

           Gower, John.     Vox clamantis; Le Mirrour de l'Omme; Confessio amantis       

           Macrobius' Commentary on a Dream of Scipio.
           Women Defamed and Women Defended (Alcuin Blamires, ed) anthology of medieval writings about women


Web resources:  The Chaucer Metapage -- best source for Chaucer scholarship

                          The Labyrinth  -- best resource on medieval culture

                          Eileen Joy's Webpage -- all kinds of wonderful connections


Requirements   Each student will be required to:


1. complete reading assignments for each class

2. write a response to each reading assignment

3. participate in class discussions

4. present and lead discussion on one text that Chaucer knew/used

5. write a research paper on the topic of his/her oral presentation


Grading:      Items in Requirements section will be graded as follows:


1-3     =    40 points total

4        =     20 points

5        =     40 points  


Total  =   100 points

Attendance:   This course is offered in an intensive format; we will cover 15 weeks' material in five weeks. Absence from more than three class hours (each hour is 50 minutes) may result in a grade of WR or UW.  Failure to attend the first class meeting without the prior approval of the instructor will drop a student from the course.


PlagiarismPlagiarism is the use of another's ideas, images, or words without full acknowledgement of their source.  Whenever you are in doubt about whether you must acknowledge a source, acknowledge it. Plagiarism is intellectual theft, a serious offense with severe consequences. Details on these may be found in the University's Graduate Student Handbook.  Students must use MLA format carefully for citations.



Note:  Chaucer's works appear on the first line of each day's reading. They are all in the Riverside Chaucer.  Works underlined and in blue are available online through the hyperlink.  Works followed by (BB) will be available in Blackboard under Course Content beginning later this week.


Week 1


Monday, 6/29    

Bring to class:       The Riverside Chaucer

In class:                 Introduction to Chaucer's life, times, and work. 

                               "General Prologue" to the Canterbury Tales.

                               selections from Boccaccio's Decameron's Prologue, Henry Knighton, Froissart (BB)

Wednesday, 7/1      

For class:               "The Knight's Prologue and Tale," "Anelida and Arcite" 

                              Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy

In class:                  Statius' Thebiad Book 12 ll 540ff. and Boccaccio's Teseida  



Week 2


Monday, 7/6       

For class:               The Book of the Duchess, The Parliament of Fowls  

                               "Ceyx and Halcyone" from Ovid's Metamorphoses,

                               Machaut's The Judgement of the King of Bohemia (BB).  

In class:                 selections from Andreas Capellanus' De Amore (On Love)



Wednesday, 7/8     


For class:                "The Clerk's Prologue, Tale, and L'Envoy," "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale"

                                Jean de Meun, selections from The Romance of the Rose (BB)

                                Christine de Pisan "Defense of Women" (BB)

                                Petrarch's Griselda

                                Gower's Confessio Amantis, Book I:  Tale of Florent

In class:                  selections from the Church fathers



Week 3


Monday, 7/13      

For class:                The House of Fame

                               Virgil's Aeneid Books 1-4


Wednesday, 7/15    

For class:                Prologues and Tales of the Summoner, Friar, Pardoner, Parson

In class:                  The Rule of St.Benedict, Rule of St. Francis, Langland's Piers Plowman (Passus 1, 5, 7) (BB)



Week 4


Monday, 7/20 

For class:                Troilus and Criseyde  Books 1-3

                               selections from Boccaccio's Il Filostrato

Wednesday, 7/22         

For class:               Troilus and Criseyde Books 4-5

                               selections from the Knight of La Tour-Landry



Week 5


Monday, 7/27 

For class:                selections from Legend of Good Women (The Seintes Legend of Cupid, and the legends of Cleopatra, Thisbe, Dido,                                     Hypsiple and Medea, Ariadne)

                               selections from Ovid's Heroides, Metamorphoses (Dido, Hypsipyle, and Medea)

                               Selections from Boccaccio’s De Claris Mulieribus (Thisbe, Dido, Hysipyle, and Medea)  


Wednesday, 7/29  

For class:  The Nun's Priest Tale, Retractions

In class:    Macrobius on the Dream of Scipio, Boccaccio, from De Genalogia Deorum Gentilium (on poetry) (BB)


Final papers are due by Friday, August 7th..  

  Student presentations:


7/1    Boccaccio's Teseida in Anelaida & Arcite and The Knight's Tale           Ruff


7/6    Ovid, Machaut, Book of the Duchess

         Andreas Capellanus


7/8   Petrarch's Griselda and The Clerk's Tale

        Church fathers and The Wife of Bath's Prologue


7/13    Virgil in the Middle Ages   

            Dante in The House of Fame


7/15    14th C. English Clergy


7/20   Boccaccio's Il Filostrato and Troilus and Criseyde  


7/27    Ovid's Heroides, Boccaccio's De Mulieribus and The Legend of Good Women.


7/29    Macrobius and The Nun's Priest's Tale