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1.       Pronunciation Assignment

All students must master the pronunciation of Middle English and read 20 or more lines of your choice satisfactorily in private with the instructor. I will be happy to hear several rehearsals of such a reading. Once you are ready to read for a grade, I will give you two tries--if the first reading is unsuccessful or you are displeased by it, you may try again on a different day. You must complete this assignment by Thursday February 23.

You may pick the passage, and it can be one we've covered in class. I am expecting to hear the passage read for pronunciation and effect--i.e., not one word at a time, but as dramatic poetry. Chaucer's language is beautiful when read aloud and you should try to convey some of that beauty. I strongly suggest that you listen to a variety of the readings on the Chaucer Metapages' Audio Files page and the files I will post in Blackboard to get a sense of how this poetry sounds when read aloud as you practice.

Traditionally students are required to memorize their passage. If you do not memorize, but choose to read your assignment from the book or a prompt sheet, the highest grade you can get on this assignment is a B (85). Successful memorization means learning the poetry the way Chaucer and his audience would have learned it--not "conning on boke" but "knowing" in the true sense. That's why students who successfully memorize their passage are eligible to get a higher score.


2.       Responses to Critical Readings

Part of the goals of a 500-level course is to encourage you to analyze and understand various critical perspectives from which literary critics approach the works you are reading. As part of this class, you will be asked to submit three out of four 2-3 page critical responses to some of the criticism we are reading for the course. These should be analytical or even argumentative, not summaries. (I already know what's in the essay. You can decide for yourself whether you liked the reading or not.) What I want to read is a critical response with a sharp, argumentative thesis, to that essay: whether you agree with it, whether you think the theoretical approach is effective, or how it may (or may not) have shaped your thinking about Chaucer, etc.

I don't want to over-prescribe these responses because I want you to have room to take them where you want to go with them, but each one must have an argument and some obvious sense of organization, cite specific evidence from the source texts, conform to scholarly standards of editing and documentation, conclude with a Works Cited page in 2009 MLA format, and be submitted through; I will give you the class ID & password in class). You do not need to go out and do outside research for these papers, though you may want to bring in evidence from the Cambridge Companion if it's relevant. It's quite likely that one of these response papers may give you an initial direction or idea for your longer researched paper, so take them seriously! I will provide you with a sample of a student response to the Nolan essay to give you an idea of what a successful response paper can look like; remember that successful responses can take many forms besides this one. (Please note that the student response pre-dated the 2009 MLA documentation changes so its Works Cited page is not completely accurate.)


3.       Critical Book Review (for Graduate Students Only)

Due no later than March 22.

Choose a critical monograph (not a collection of articles from one or multiple authors) written since 1996 on some aspect of Chaucer studies. You should clear the book you choose with me; I'll be happy to suggest some if you can't find one in the library that appeals to you. Your objective is to show the depth of your critical reading skills and how you can take what you are learning in this class and connect it to some other scholar’s work.  

In 4-6 double-spaced pages, your review should

·        Briefly summarize the book’s argument (by brief, I mean around 300 words—this is not a book report)

·        Describe the author/editor’s critical and theoretical approach(es)

·        Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the book or collection. What assumptions, themes, or beliefs is it furthering?

·        Discuss how useful the book is in furthering your understanding and furthering of Chaucer

·        Assess its overall success (you may wish to consult reviews of the book if you can find them; the MLA Online Bibliography  and the Chaucer Online Bibliography may be of service here).

If you use any secondary sources, such as reviews, please make sure to document them carefully using 2009 MLA documentation. Any quotations or paraphrases from the book you’re reviewing must also be documented appropriately.

You should submit the final version in hard copy as well as submitting it to As always, feel free to bring drafts by the office for discussion. Feel free to discuss drafts or outlines with me and/or to use the services of the Writing Center, should you so desire. I’ve attached a handout that offers some good tips on writing critical book reviews if you want to refresh your memory. You can find some good sample reviews (in history, not literature, but pretty applicable) archived on the Web at .   Look at the papers by Cowen, Culbert, Johnson, Gunn, and Harvey for solid examples.


4.       Class Discussion (click here for the schedule)

Each student will be required to lead the discussion of secondary scholarship for 15-20 minutes on an assigned date in the class. Undergraduates will lead one such discussion; graduate students and undergraduates contracting for honors credit will lead two such discussions. Discussions mean just that: they’re not mini-lectures but dialogues among people engaging with ideas and texts, so make sure you have prepared questions that will lead to such a conversation.

As you prepare your discussion, make sure you can talk about the kind of critical viewpoint that the scholar you’re presenting has brought to bear on the chosen texts; select some passages from the primary reading for that day that you want us to discuss in light of the reading; and feel free to highlight the strengths and the weaknesses of the scholar’s approach for us. We have a number of excellent secondary critical works on reserve for the class that will enable you to provide context for the discussion. I’ll be glad to meet with you in advance of your presentations if you have questions.

5.       Major Critical Essay

Among the goals for 500-level courses in the Department are these:

·         demonstrate the correct use of standard reference tools, the proper handling of primary and secondary sources, and proper documentation of all sources

·         write research papers and critical analyses on appropriate topics from language, literature, or pedagogy

·         demonstrate a publishable level of critical, creative, or pedagogical materials

These goals are echoed in our undergraduate program goals as well. (Here is my rubric for grading literary critical essays for 500-level courses.)

Therefore, when you choose a topic for your big paper (8-10 pages for undergraduates, 12-15 pages for graduates), think about choosing one that will demonstrate the range and depth of learning you have achieved in this class and think about choosing a topic that will demonstrate your ability to bring your own critical acumen to bear on a Chaucerian text or problem. I encourage you to bring by outlines and drafts for discussion as you're working on the paper. The final paper must be submitted in hard copy (and to ) on Study Day (Tuesday April 24) at 5 PM. I will discuss specific requirements for this paper later on in the course. The abstract and rough draft of this paper count towards its final grade, so take it seriously from the beginning!


·         Discuss topic with me by Tuesday April 3 (there will be a signup list on my door for conference appointments so that you don't get squeezed out by my advisees)

·         Have a mandatory rough draft conference with me the week of April 17 (again, there will be a signup list on my door for conference appointments)

·         Turn the paper in by 5 pm on Tuesday April 24, as well as submitting it by then to