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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Undergraduate Course: The Canterbury Tales (ENLI10080)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThe 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.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) AND Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025)) OR ( English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) AND English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Essential course texts
Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesA MINIMUM of 4 college/university level literature courses at grade B or above (should include no more than one introductory level literature course). Related courses such as cross disciplinary, "Freshman Seminars", civilisation or creative writing classes are not considered for admission to this course.
Applicants should also note that, as with other popular courses, meeting the minimum does NOT guarantee admission. In making admissions decisions preference will be given to students who achieve above the minimum requirement with the typical visiting student admitted to this course
having four or more literature classes at grade A.

** as numbers are limited, visiting students should contact the Visiting Student Office directly for admission to this course **
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 20, Other Study Hours 10, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 166 )
Additional Information (Learning and Teaching) one hour per week Autonomous Learning Group
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 2000 word coursework essay (30%) submitted mid-semester;
plus 3000 word final essay submitted during exam period (70%).
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
Students who complete the course successfully will read widely within the Canterbury Tales, acquiring familiarity with the reading and interpretation of Middle English, and knowledge of a broad range of medieval narrative genres. They will gain an understanding of the historical, cultural and intellectual contexts that shape the writing of literature of the middle ages, and learn to interpret medieval literary texts in the light of these contexts. This should lead to a recognition of the alterity of the concerns and ideologies of the medieval period, and an enhanced understanding of how literature of the period can both reflect and reflect upon them.
Reading List
The Riverside Chaucer ed LD Benson (Oxford, 1988) RP Miller.
Within this it is good to read: The Franklin's Tale, The Pardoner's Tale, The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale, The Knight's Tale, and The Miller's Tale.

Chaucer: Sources and Backgrounds (Oxford, 1977) is also useful to have.
Additional Information
Course URL
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements Numbers are limited to 15, with priority given to students taking degrees involving English or Scottish Literature and Visiting Students placed by the Admissions Office. Students not in these categories need the written approval of the Head of English Literature before enrolling. In the case of excess applications places will be decided by ballot.
Additional Class Delivery Information Seminar: 2 hour(s) per week for 10 week(s); plus attendance at Autonomous Learning Group for one hour each week - time to be arranged
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Kate Ash-Irisarri
Tel: (0131 6)50 8930
Course secretaryMrs Vivien MacNish Porter
Tel: (0131 6)50 3528
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