Spring 2024 - ENGL 433W D100

Seminar in British Literatures (4)

Class Number: 4812

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 8 – Apr 12, 2024: Tue, Thu, 8:30–10:20 a.m.

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units or two 300-division English courses.



Advanced seminar in British literature. May be organized by author, genre, period, or critical approach. This course may be repeated for credit if a different topic is taught. Writing.



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 Troilus and Criseyde and then 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 moost heede.
Noght o word speke 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 is yowr speche,
And gladly wol ye lerne and gladly teche.


  • Research Presentation (approx. 20 minutes) 15%
  • Presentation Paper (approx. 7 pages) 20%
  • Response Papers x 3 (< 2 pages each) 15%
  • Final Seminar Paper (approx. 15 pages) 40%
  • Class Participation 10%



NOTE: Many additional readings, both primary and secondary, will be made available on the class Canvas page. Please purchase the specific edition I have ordered above, as there are major editorial and translation differences between these and other editions of the same works.


Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Norton Chaucer. Ed. David Lawton. New York: Norton, 2019.
ISBN: 978-0-393-42779-0


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

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 website http://www.sfu.ca/students/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.

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