Write an original research paper
which discusses a particular topic
or theme relating to the Canterbury
Tales. You should explore the
historical context of your topic
and describe the way this context
manifests in the Canterbury Tales.
You should use this as a background
for a discussion of the meaning of
the aspect of the text with which
you are dealing. For guidance on
doing research and constructing your
argument, see the the Research
The research paper should be approximately
2000-3000 words long (2500-3500 for
graduate students). Papers slightly
under or over this length are acceptable
as long as they contain discussion
with substance appropriate to this
This paper will
be graded substantially on your ability
to write and format clear and effective
scholarly prose. My general policy
is to read essays as a potential
employer would read a job application;
poor spelling, grammar, punctuation,
formatting, and proofreading—as
well as mastery of the discourse
of the profession—pretty
much disqualify you from the ‘job’.
Potential employers would just throw
away the application, but since I
can’t do that, I make these
the primary criteria for grading
(and, needless to say, the result
is a poor grade). The more mechanical
problems you have, the more I make
them the criteria for grading. If
there are so many that I cannot pay
attention to other aspect of the
paper, then your grade will be based
only on these criteria. So be forewarned.
This is important, and it is worth
your effort to may attention to these
details. For guidelines on formatting
and other mechanical matters, see
Advice Pages. You may also find
the tutorials on the Chaucer Pedagogy
useful (but note
that where it says to underline titles,
you should italicise them, if possible).
Due Date: 23 May. Please slide your
essay under my door (Sierra Tower
803) by 5:00 pm.
Here are some sample Research Paper
topics. All must be related directly
to the Canterbury Tales.
You are free to come up with your
own topics, as long as you get them
approved by me first.
- Courtly Love
- Boethian Philosophy
- The Fabliau Tradition
- Antifeminism and Medieval Attitudes
- Fidelity in Marriage
- The Relationship between Tale
and Pilgrim Narrator
- Physiognomy and Characterisation
- The Medieval Estates
- The Medieval Church and/or Clergy
- Medieval Manuscripts
- Medieval Pilgrimages
- Beauty and/or Fashion in the
- Medieval Students and Universities
- Medieval Beast Fables
- Medieval Ideas about Dreams
- The Use of the Bible
- Medieval Rhetoric
- Fragments and the Arrangement
of the Canterbury Tales
Please have your topics
selected by the end of Spring Break
and e-mail them to me with "Chaucer
Essay Topic" as your subject
line. I will get back to you with
my approval or comments within the
Read the two short articles held on reserve in the library. Use the course password is 8646 to access these texts on electronic reserve (you will also need the bar code on your library card). Click on the titles and then "View Electronic Reserve Item". Pay special attention to the way the authors of these texts integrate quotations into their discussion. Try to name three principles the authors follow in integrating quotations into their text. Due to the potential strike action on April 25-26, I am not assigning any written work for this assignment. However, please bring the short texts to class after Spring Break, as we will be discussing them in class.
You should also begin reading the Oxford Illustrated History of Medieval England extracts, available on reserve (in paper form) in the library--or you may wish to purchase it in bookstores. This will help you with historical background for your research paper.
Common Problems in Assignment 1 (click the link)
Read pp. xiii-xxv in the introduction to The Canterbury Tales: Complete. Then write a 1-2 page essay in which you describe how some feature of the General Prologue or the Knight's Tale relates to Chaucer's life. You may choose the precise topic. Keep in mind that the length of the essay means that you should not try to treat the subject exhaustively. The only requirements are that your essay must have the following characteristics:
- It must contain no typographical, spelling or grammatical mistakes.
- It must contain at least one semicolon and one colon, used properly (click the links for help).
- It must contain at least one quotation from the introduction and at least one quotation from the Canterbury Tales, cited properly. For help on citation format, see my essay advice on quotations and citations.
The purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to the background to Chaucer's life and to the techniques of writing about Chaucer, as well as the expectations of good writing style which you will be graded on in the final assignment (so take these exercises VERY seriously). There will be numerous such short exercises designed to help prepare you for the final research paper.
Assignment 1 will be due on Tuesday, 27 February 2007.