Spring 2018 - ENGL 306 D100

Chaucer (4)

Class Number: 1385

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    RCB 5120, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    Two 100 division English courses, and two 200 division English courses.



The study of selected works by Geoffrey Chaucer, especially The Canterbury Tales, read in the language in which they were written and situated in the context of Fourteenth century European culture.


After 600 plus years of “Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote,” it is tempting to think of Geoffrey Chaucer in only the fustiest of terms: the deadest and whitest of England’s dead white males; the moribund cornerstone of a moribund canon; a thousand yellowing pages on a creaky bookshelf. Lost in this staid (and deeply inaccurate) vision of Chaucer, however, is the kaleidoscopic and sometimes radical brilliance of his work, a collection of writings that alternately hum with skepticism and faith, anxiety and optimism, paradox and ambiguity, pun and punch line, sex, piety, moralism, violence and wit. The man John Dryden dubbed the “Father of English Poetry” was, it seems, as fond of a good fart joke as he was of an astute philosophical point. Readers of Chaucer will find both, often in the same place.

In this course, we will consider several early lyrics and dream visions before turning to The Canterbury Tales, the last and most vexing of Chaucer’s works. In the process, we will work to place Chaucer within the linguistic, political, and cultural contexts of late-medieval England, and we will consider not only why Chaucer mattered in his own tumultuous age but why he still matters in ours.


Of studie tak ye moost cure and most heede.
Noght o word spak ye moore than ys neede,
And that is seyd in forme and reverence,
And short and quyk and ful of hy sentence;
Sownynge in moral vertu ys your speche,
And gladly wolde ye lerne and gladly teche.


  • Participation 15%
  • Middle English Presentation (15 min.) 15%
  • Reading / Vocabulary Quizzes (x4) 20%
  • Essay #1 (5 - 6 pp.) 20%
  • Essay #2 (7 - 8 pp.) 30%



Students will need to purchase a print edition of the standard scholarly edition of Chaucer's works: The Riverside Chaucer (sometimes marketed as The Wadsworth Chaucer), 3rd Edition, Ed. Larry D. Benson (Boston: Houghton, 1987). This book is widely available online and at local bookshops, and it can be purchased in either hardcover or paperback. ISBNs: 9780199552092 (paper), 9780395290316, 9781133316282 (hardcover).

NOTE: I have not ordered this book through SFU's bookstore. You are responsible for ordering your own copy for the class.

Department Undergraduate Notes:

IMPORTANT NOTE Re 300 and 400 level courses: 75% of spaces in 300 level English courses, and 100% of spaces in 400 level English courses, are reserved for declared English Major, Minor, Extended Minor, Joint Major, and Honours students only, until open enrollment begins.

For all On-Campus Courses, please note the following:
- To receive credit for the course, students must complete all requirements.
- Tutorials/Seminars WILL be held the first week of classes.
- When choosing your schedule, remember to check "Show lab/tutorial sections" to see all Lecture/Seminar/Tutorial times required.

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://students.sfu.ca/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html