Studies in Medieval Literature
Graduate School Spring Semester 1999, English 450
Brother Anthony (An Sonjae)
Mondays 2 - 5

This course will be a general study of the major works of medieval English literature with considerable time spent on Chaucer.

Week 2: Old English Literature in translation
  Bede, Beowulf, The Wanderer, The Dream of the Rood

 Topic: What are the major characteristics of these works? Why might they have been written? How should they be read today?

Week 3: Romance: Chivalry and love
Tristan & Iseult; Chretien de Troyes; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Malory: Morte D'Arthur (Norton extracts)

 Topic: The main characteristics of the works in their depiction of chivalry and love.

Week 4: Lyric Poetry in England and Europe
    English medieval lyrics; the troubadors, Dante: La Vita Nuova, Petrarch: Canzoniere, Machaut, Villon, Charles d'Orleans

 Topic: Main themes and stylistic characteristics

Week 5 Piers Plowman (extracts in Norton)

Topic: The view of society and religion

Week 6: No Class (April 5: Arbor Day) Read about Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe

Week 7: Troilus and Criseyde

 Topic: What is this story about? In particular, what is the significance of the Boethian elements? Is Troilus right to laugh at the end?

Week 8: The Canterbury Tales: The General Prologue

 Topic: How should we read the portraits? Are they meant to be realistic? Satirical? What criteria are to be applied in judging the story- telling contest?

Week 9: The Knight's Tale

 Topic: What is this story about? Compare it with Troilus and Criseyde as a love tale and as a Boethian exemplum.

Week 10: The Miller's Tale (and The Reeve's Tale)

 Topic: Are these tales "funny"? If not, what are they? What is their status as "literature"? What are they doing in the Canterbury Tales?

Week 11: The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

 Topic: Who is the Wife? A voice? A "character"? A model, or a monster? Is she a feminist in any sense? What is the role of medieval antifeminism in her words? What is the relationship between the speaker of the Prologue and the contents of the Tale?

Week 12: The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale

 Topic: Compare this with Piers Plowman as an exercise in satire aimed at corruption in the Church and beyond that at human sin in general. Comment on the way the Tale ends.

Week 13: The Nun's Priest's Tale

 Topic: Think carefully about the way this is a story about people telling stories and trying to give meaningful messages through the stories they tell. What is the "moral" of the NPT?

Week 14: The Clerk's Tale

 Topic: Respond to Griselde's experience. What would seem to be Walter's motivation? What is this story about? Comment on the final portion of the Tale.

Week 15: Drama: The Mystery Play Cycles and Everyman

 Topic: Evaluate these plays as effective drama.

Text Books

For most of the texts: volume One of the SIXTH edition of the Norton Anthology.
For the Canterbury Tales: the Blake edition of the Hengwrt Manuscript (available from Hanshin?) or texts can be printed from the links on this page.
For background information and an overall survey:  Brother Anthony's Literature in British Society Volume One (Sogang University Press).
For Chaucer: The Cambridge Chaucer Companion or the Oxford Guides to the Canterbury Tales, Troilus and Criseyde, or Derek Brewer's Guide to Chaucer.

Online Texts and Study-guides:

Brother Anthony's index page of Supplementary Texts (especially the Chaucer section)
Brother Anthony's list of Medieval Links
An article outlining the development of Love in European medieval literature
Extracts from Troilus and Criseyde with summary: Books 1-3, Books 4-5. (for class use).
A link to the full text of Troilus and Criseyde (modern spelling, lightly abbreviated)
The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales (Introduction) (Text with notes) (Hear it being read)
The Knight's Tale (Full text) (Shorter text for class)
The Miller's Tale (Introduction) (Text)
The Nun's Priest's Tale (Introduction) (Text) (Article)
The Wife of Bath : Prologue and Tale
The Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue and Tale (Introduction)
The Clerk : Prologue and Tale


Students will write two well-documented papers, one on a freely-chosen theme, one on a Chaucerian topic, one by tenth week and one for the end of semester.

In addition, students are encouraged to find useful visual material online and in the library, illustrating the works studied each week, and to collect them in a scrapbook file during the semester. Scrapbooks will be collected and included in the final grade.


Active participation in class discussions (15%)
Scrapbook (15%)
Two reports (35% each)