Dr. R. James Goldstein
Office: HC 9074 (phone: 844-9074)
Office Hours: 11:00-11:50 MWF and by appt
Class Web Page: <www.auburn.edu/~goldsrj/Chaucer/chaucer.htm>
ENGL 4300 Chaucer (Spring 2002)
Chaucerís Major Poetry, ed. Albert C. Baugh (Prentice Hall)
Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy, trans. P. G. Walsh
Geoffrey Chaucer is a poet of remarkable contradictions. Although
his habitual narrative persona was modest and self-effacing, he was also
the first English poet who aspired to become a literary classic of lasting
fame. Fully immersed in the aristocratic court culture of his day,
he also maintained some distance in perspective on his social betters.
Interested in serious philosophical issues like free will vs. determinism,
he also enjoyed joking about lower bodily functions. Described as
a "friend of women" by one early admirer, he was also accused of rape (though
the charges were later dropped in mysterious circumstances). Most
of his modern admirers see him as a typically orthodox late-medieval Christian;
others insist he is the first modern (or even "post-modern") English writer,
who challenges the common religious and political pieties of his age.
After 600 years his work has lost none of its power to charm and to challenge
In considering these and other contradictions in Chaucer's life and
work, we will study his masterpiece Troilus and Criseyde and the
major Canterbury Tales in the original Middle English, after preliminary
study of Boethius's Consolation of Philosophy in translation.
Since no experience reading Middle English is expected, we will first get
comfortable with his language by starting off with some of his shorter
Note: all works by Chaucer will be read in the original Middle English.
Do not attempt to substitute a modern translation.
Specific Course Objectives
Requirements and Approximate Grade Distributions
To learn to read and to recite Chaucerís variety of Middle English with
reasonable fluency and comprehension.
To study a selection of Chaucerís lyric and narrative poetry with attention
to some of its literary, philosophical, theological, and historical contexts.
To improve skills in critical reading, writing, and research at a level
appropriate to the advanced undergraduate study of English.
To develop attitudes of interest in the period, its literature, and its
contributions to humanity; the study of the dominant values of the period
should help students clarify and define their own personal values.
Grades are calculated according to the following scale:
Translation quizzes, metrical exercises, prepared Middle English recitation
of 30-50 lines (10%)
Two critical papers of 5-6 pp. or a research paper of 10-12 pp. or a web
project (40%) (Students with a particular interest in the WWW may construct
an online project instead of writing a traditional essay. Collaborative
web projects will also be possible. See me early if you wish to develop
a web project.) For details on written assignments, go to www.auburn.edu/~goldsrj/Chaucer/papers.htm
Midterm exam (20%)
Final exam (30%)
Students who participate regularly in class discussion will have additional
points added to their final grade
97-100 (A+) 87-89 (B+) 77-79 (C+) 67-69 (D+) Below 60 (F)
93-96 (A) 83-86 (B) 73-76 (C) 63-66 (D)
90-92 (A-) 80-82 (B-) 70-72 (C-) 60-62 (D-)
The course will be conducted by lecture and discussion.
I expect you to prepare each reading assignment carefully by the day it
is assigned and to be ready to discuss it in class. Accordingly, you should
study all the Middle English glosses, make reading notes in the text or
elsewhere that identify key passages, and note any questions you have.
Attendance: you are expected to attend each class. More than five
unexcused absences may result in a grade of FA. If you are absent
for one of the excused reasons listed in the Tiger Cub, please bring me
your written excuse on the first day you return to class. If you
anticipate an absence, please notify me in advance.
Lateness: students should be in their seats ready to begin promptly on
the hour. Three unexcused late arrivals will count as an unexcused
Quizzes: may not be made up, though you will not be penalized if you miss
one because of an excused absence or excused late arrival.
Deadlines: metrical exercises and essays are due at the beginning of class
on the days assigned. Essays may be penalized up to five points for
each day late unless you make other arrangements at least 24 hours in advance.
Completion of work: all essay assignments and exams must be completed for
you to pass the course. Exams may be made up only in the case of
a documented excused absence.
Academic honesty: cheating and plagiarism are serious violations of the
Student Academic Honesty Code and will be treated according to the procedures
outlined in the Tiger Cub. See me if you have any questions concerning
what constitutes plagiarism.
Students with disabilities: students who need accommodations are asked
to arrange a meeting as soon as possible. Bring a copy of your Accommodation
Memo and Instructor Verification Form to the meeting. If you do not
have an Accommodation Memo but need accommodations, make an appointment
with the Program for Students with Disabilities, 1244 Haley Center, 844-2096
(Page created 01-04/02)