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Unit 2: Beowulf & Chaucer


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Unit Two: Old and Middle English
Beowulf and Chaucer

Objectives:
1.   Draw relationships between the societies in Britain during the Old English Period and the Late Middle ages period and with specific texts and passages in Beowulf and The Canterbury Tales, respectively. Include religious, political, intellectual and social factors.
2.   Consider the characteristics of Beowulf and the selected Canterbury Tales texts according to their genre and to influences of other literary forms on them.
3.   Be able to suggest the implied meaning of a given passage, keeping the above factors in mind.

Readings for examinations and writing assignments:
1.   "The Middle Ages (to ca. 1485) and "Old English Literature," pp. 1-16.
2.   Beowulf, pp. 21-67.
3.   "Middle English Literature," "Geoffrey Chaucer," and "The Canterbury Tales," pp. 76-78.
4.  "The General Prologue," pp. 81-100.

Websites:

http://www.humanities.mcmaster.ca/~beowulf/main.html

http://www.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/english016/beowulf/beowulf.html

http://www.towson.edu/~duncan/chaucer/index.htm

http://www.courses.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/index.html

Other Recommended Readings:
1.   "The Pardoner's Prologue and Tale" and from "The Parson's Tale," pp. 164-178, 193.
2.   Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, pp. 21-67.
3.   "The Cuckoo Song," p. 289.
4.   Everyman,  pp. 363-394.

Activities:
1.   Look up the characteristics of the epic in a handbook to literature (some are available on the internet), and explain how Beowulf fits those characteristics, being sure to quote some passages and explain them. Email your response to the instructor and your fellow students.
2.   Identify pagan (pre-Christian) as well as Christian elements in Beowulf.
3.  What elements of the world and society of the later Middle Ages are reflected in the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales?
4.   Look up the characteristics of an allegory in a handbook to literature. Explain how this genre or technique is used in the Prologue and the "Pardoner's Prologue and Tale."

On-going Activities:
5.   Annotated bibliography:
a.  Look through the authors listed in the course schedule.
b.  Choose one and choose one work by that author found in your book.
c.  Read the general information in your book and then begin searching for articles about that work for the purpose of finding out what issues are debated in the field in relation to that pieces of literature.
d.  Begin an annotated bibliography in MLA style that lists some of the articles and summarizes them in terms of what they contribute to the academic debate about the literary work you have chosen to research.
e.  Submit two items from your annotated bibliography so that the instructor can see whether you have picked a good piece and relevant articles. Search in GALILEO as well as on University sites. Do not use personal web pages or sites intended to summarize the works for high school and undergraduate students in your annotated bibliography.
f.  (Eventually, you will be asked to focus your topic and write a short (5-8 pages) researched critical analysis essay on the literary work you have chosen.)