EN2CMN-Chaucer and Medieval Narrative

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Aisling Byrne

Email: a.byrne@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Sometimes called the 'father of English literature', Geoffrey Chaucer (d. 1400) is one of the great innovators in English literary history. In this module we will explore his most famous work, The Canterbury Tales.This is a story collection of enormous variety, featuring everything from vulgar comedies to moral fables and from biting satires to narratives of tragic love. Each week we will explore a different text from The Canterbury Tales and delve into some of Chaucer's key themes, such as love, religion, gender, class, chivalry and magic. The module will also introduce some of the major literary and intellectual influences upon Chaucer's work and set his narratives alongside comparable texts from the period.


This module aims to provide students with knowledge of a wide and representative selection of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, together with a small range of comparable narrative texts. It is designed to promote strategies of close critical reading, and to introduce students to questions of narrative method, voice, structure, genre and audience. No previous knowledge of Middle English language, medieval literature or history is required.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:
•demonstrate an understanding of the Middle English texts they have studied
•identify and discuss a range of narrative forms and techniques
•exercise critical skills of detailed textual analysis
•engage critically with the ideas presented in lectures, seminars, or
secondary materials
•organize and articulate a coherent written argument, both in coursework essays
and under timed examination conditions.

Additional outcomes:
Oral and written communication skills will be developed, including practical advocacy, together with critical, interpretative, comparative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner.

Outline content:

The module introduces students to a representative selection of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and also investigates some of the major literary and intellectual influences upon Chaucer's work. Typical tales studied on this module cover a variety of genres and themes. 'The General Prologue', which introduces the entire collection, is a vivid account of a motley group of pilgrims, including the author himself, as they gather at a London tavern before setting out on pilgrimage to Canterbury. In the course of their journey they entertain each other with stories. 'The Knight's Tale', the very first of these stories, is a tale of chivalric combat and tragic love set in the classical world. It is followed by 'The Miller's Tale', a bawdy comedy set in a medieval university town. Other texts typically studied on this module include the stories told by two of Chaucer's most famous creations, the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner. Works like the 'The Nun's Priest's Tale' combine vibrant comedy with serious reflection on the purpose of creating literature. We will also explore the riddle of Chaucer's 'Retraction' where the poet seems to express misgivings about his works. Seminars will focus mostly on individual tales, with opportunities for student-directed choice of topics.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
A combination of lectures and structured seminar discussion, for which students are required to do preparatory reading. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative essay. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 10 1
Seminars 10
Tutorials 0.5
Practicals classes and workshops 2
Guided independent study 139.5 37
Total hours by term 160.00 40.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 67
Written assignment including essay 33

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Summative Assessment Methods (%) - work which always contributes towards the overall module mark:

Formative assessment methods:

Formative Assessment Methods - work which provides opportunities to improve performance (e.g. through feedback provided) but which does not necessarily always contribute towards the overall module mark: Students write one formative essay, of approximately 2000 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2000 words, or on the equivalent placement report.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 25 August 2018 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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