Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Miller's Tale discussion topic

How has Chaucer made the tale "fit" the teller? In how many ways can we identify the precise nature of the relationship between the tale and its teller?

Specifically, let us consider the following:
• the Miller's choice of material (does the fabliau match what we know of the miller's personality?)
• methods and depth of characterization (how much do we know about each character? how "dimensional" are they? why?)
• use of key details (find examples of little choices in keeping with the miller's interests and character. what are the most interesting facts about each character, at least to the miller?)
• use of language (what words does the miller especially like? what examples of puns can you find?)
• sense of humor/ tone (which parts are intended humorously? what kind of humor is it? Is the miller making fun of any of his characters?)
• "fabliau justice" (do the characters get what they deserve? If not in our eyes, how about in the miller's system of justice?)
• in what way(s) does the Miller's Tale "quite" the Knight's Tale?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Additional Chaucer links

1. The short piece we looked at in class about the Three Estates, by Professor Debora Schwartz of Cal Poly University English department.

2. The essay on "Medieval Estates and Orders" referred to on page 170 in our textbook.

3. Side-by-side modern English translation and original Middle English version of the General Prologue, courtesy Towson State University, Maryland.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pronouncing Middle English--links

First, professor Jane Zatta, Southern Illinois University, reads the General Prologue. (The audio file is broken into units of about 12 lines, but her voice is quite clear)

Next, a YouTube file containing an audio reading and a phonetic transliteration of the lines. (The audio is better than the phonetics, which don't always match what the voice is reading.) I haven't identified the voice.

A page on the Harvard (pronounced Hahvahd) web site, which contains both the original text, a line-by-line modernized version, and a sound file.

Finally, a list of several available recordings, both from the General Prologue and some of the tales, provided by the English department at Virginia Military Institute. (You need the Real Audio Player software to listen to some of these recordings).

Listen to several recordings. Notice that not all ME (Middle English) readers pronounce words the same. Still, by listening to the opening lines several times, you can get a better sense of the sound of the English language 600 years ago. Practice repeating along with the voice of the reader; the more you do so, the more quickly you will be able to memorize the material.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

"Shed jewel" October 12-December 15

Week 8: October 11-15

No School Monday--Fall Break
Day 1: No assignment--Bring Lit books to class for Intro to Chaucer
Day 2: Read pp. 165-171, up to line 42 ("at a knight thanne wol I first biginne")
Friday: Read pp. 171-177, to line 286; MCQz, RdgQz? (End 1st Marking period)

Week 9: October 18-22

Monday: Read pp. 177-183, to line544; blog 6 (topic from chapter 3 or a character from GP)
Day 2: Read pp. 183-190; bring vocal books to class
Day 3: Read pp. 191-196, to line 230 ("of farting")
Day 4: Read pp. 196-201, to line 492 ("go save oure lif'); vocab quiz lessons 7-8

Week 10: October 25-29 (revised)

Monday: Read pp. 202-207; perform memorized recitations of GP lines 1-18, with feeling
Day 2: Make a Difference Day
Day 3: Finish Miller's Tale; finish recitations, with feeling
Friday: Continue discussion of Miller's Tale; No Qz

Week 11: November 1-5
(revised yet again--3rd time's the charm?)

Monday: Read the Pardoner's Tale, pp. 235-249; probable RdQz (it's been a while); blog #6: locate 5 lines in the Pardoner's Tale which interest you but about which you have a question; blog about these lines; copy them, ask your question, pose a possible answer or personal reaction.
Day 2: Continue discussion of Pardoner's Tale
Day 3: Wrap up discussion
Friday: MCQz 5; Intro "I-Search Word" papers, 5 - 8 pages, due Tuesday, November 23

Week 12: November 8 - 12

Monday: Test #2, General Prologue, Miller's Tale, Pardoner's Tale, chapter 3 Faire Englische
Day 2: Read chapter 4, Oure Faire Englische Tung; library orientation and work day #1 for I-Search papers, including OED
Day 3: Read Twelfth Night, pp. 510-518; bring Vc books to class
Friday: Twelfth Night, pp. 518-526 + VcQz 9 & 10

Week 13: November 15-19

Monday: Twelfth Night, pp. 527-536; blog (#7) your word--what do you already know about your word, why did you choose it, what new information have you discovered so far, what resources have you used???
Day 2: Twelfth Night, pp. 536-545; bring vocab books to class
Day 3: Twelfth Night, pp. 545-556
Day 4: VcQz 11 & 12; library work day #2

Week 14: November 22-26

Monday: Bring drafts of I-Search papers to class, MINIMUM 5 pages
Tuesday: Papers due, all sections, hard copy and
Wednesday: Thanksgiving break--no class Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday

Week 15:November 29 - December 3

Monday: Twelfth Night, pp. 556-562
Day 2: Twelfth Night, pp. 562-72
Day 3: Wrap up
Day 4: Quotation quiz

Week 16: December 6 - 10

Monday: Blog 8: What is Shakespeare's message about love and how does it compare to or intersect with your own view? (You don't need to quote from the play for this assignment, but you must refer to specific characters and incidents in your discussion) 500-600 words

(N.B.--If you see the performance at Mesa Arts Center, you may substitute a blog focusing on 3 ways that seeing the play changed or enhanced your understanding or appreciation of the text or differed significantly from reading it.)

Week 17: December 13 - 17

Wednesday, December 15--Semester exam, 9AM, Hormel

Friday, October 1, 2010

Medieval Romance

I. • The hero is a knight, a member of a rare and select company, known for his courage and valor.
• The knight must respond to a challenge, often setting for himself, on behalf of his religion, his liege lord, or a captive lady, a difficult or seemingly impossible task.
• The heroic knight must perform noble deeds in the fulfillment of this challenge.
• The knight has a strong relationship, characterized by great chivalry on his part, often involving love, with a beautiful, sometimes mysterious lady.
• The adventures are set in vague, imaginary, unearthly, or exotic settings.
• The mystery and suspense of the adventure often derive from the existence of supernatural elements in the tale.
• Concealed or disguised identities often figure prominently in the pursuit of the adventure.
• Mystical numbers such as 3 or 5 are often used and repeated.
• The knight’s courage and faith will be sorely tested during his adventure, and he will experience moments of doubt and weakness.


  • "romance" originally referred to the "vernacular" language in which courtly tales were composed, to distinguish them from "real" literature written in Latin.
  • Eventually, the term referred to the kind of tales popular in Anglo-Norman courts, stories of the chivalric adventures of knights and their ladies, often set in the court of King Arthur.
  • Early audiences were largely women, a queen or duchess and ladies of her court, who wanted to see women in more important roles than in the earlier male-bonding epics of the Anglo-Saxons. So the poets produced tales in which the knight is still a brave warrior but is now motivated by the desire to serve a lady in a chivalric way.
  • Thus the tales developed a relationship later known as "courtly love," in which the knight serves his lady (usually NOT his wife) with obedience and submission (she controls the relationship), and is inspired by her love to do great deeds.
  • Extramarital aspect is not inherently immoral but rather an idealized romantic relationship which can therefore not exist in the "real" context of medieval marriage (typically based on monetary, political, or dynastic goals, NOT love). Therefore the quasi-adulterous quality that bothers modern readers was probably at that time beside the point.
Source: Prof. Debora Schwartz, Cal Poly University (Link)

What form do these characteristics of medieval romance take in the story of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight?

How have these conventions been adapted, in exciting ways, in contemporary popular culture, such as books, films, graphic novels, or comic books?