Dr. Don King‎ > ‎Course Syllabi‎ > ‎

English 300

Fall 2014
English 300: Middle English Literature
; 3 credit hrs.
MWF 12-12:50 a.m.
Library 105


Course Description:  A study of Middle English literature with an emphasis on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Course Rationale:  Like Shakespeare, Milton, and Wordsworth, Chaucer is a major figure in British literature.  Indeed, although this course is not devoted entirely to Chaucer, Middle English literature is almost synonymous with his name.  His Canterbury Tales is very influential, and his particular dialect of middle English is the “standard” by which others are measured.  For these reasons as well as his wit, imagination, diction, and skill as a poet, he deserves our attention today. Moreover, medieval drama, a central teaching device of the Church, grew and flourished during the middle ages; roughly a third of the course will focus upon medieval drama.

Texts:  The following are required texts:

Background to Middle English Literature. Robert Ackerman 

The Broadman Anthology of Medieval Drama. Eds. Christiana Fitzgerald and John Sebastian

Chaucer’s Poetry: An Anthology for the Modern Reader.  Ed. by E. T. Donaldson.

Also strongly recommended texts:

A Chaucer Glossary, Norman Davis et. al.
A Handbook to Literature, Eds. William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman
MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers (7th ed), Ed. Joseph Gibaldi.

In addition, see Oxford Reference Online www.oxfordreference.com for some basic reference assistance.  It contains desktop access to 100 key Oxford dictionaries and reference works. The Core Collection brings together 100 language and subject dictionaries and reference works - containing well over 60,000 pages - into a single cross-searchable resource. 

Finally, a must for any study of language and literature is the Oxford English Dictionary, the grandfather of all dictionaries at http://dictionary.oed.com

Websites: The following are helpful websites concerning Middle English language and literature  and Chaucer:


Baragona's Literary Resources: http://alanbaragona.wordpress.com/the-criyng-and-the-soun/

Learn Middle English Online: http://www.nativlang.com/middle-english/index.php

Chaucer’s Language: http://pages.towson.edu/duncan/chaucer/home.htm

The Harvard Geoffrey Chaucer Website: http://sites.fas.harvard.edu/~chaucer/

A Glossarial DataBase of Middle English: http://quod.lib.umich.edu/g/gloss/

The Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac: https://www.wwnorton.com/college/english/nael/noa/pdf/13BromePlay_1_12.pdf


Course Objective:  The central objective of this course is to introduce you to Middle English language and literature, specifically through a study of various medieval dramas and of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. 


Learning Outcomes:

  1. That you develop a reading knowledge of Middle English.

  2. That you understand Middle English history, politics, theology, and culture, particularly the courtly love tradition.

  3. That you identify and discuss the significant themes and motifs of Middle English literature.

  4. That you read and discuss a selection of important medieval dramas, including both mystery and morality plays.

  5. That you discern the structure, design, and plan for the Canterbury Tales, as well as  the genres of the tales and the relationships between the teller and the tale.

  6. That you write a book review on important scholarly book that considers the Middle English period.

  7. That you develop a creative project on some aspect of our study.

  8. That you write a literary analysis on some aspect of our study.

  9. That you learn to value the literature covered in this course as something that can enrich your life, revealing the complexity of the human experience and informing your spiritual life.

Course Outline:

            Week 1      Introduction to medieval England

                              Introduction to medieval drama


            2-3             Selected plays from the York Corpus Christi cycle

                              Second Shepherd’s Play

                              The Play of Noah

                              The Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac

                              Other selected medieval plays


            4                Mankind and Everyman


                              Test 1


            5-7             Intro. to Chaucer and The Canterbury Tales

                              “The General Prologue” and “The Knight’s Tale”

                                        “The Miller’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale”


                              Test 2


            7-10           “The Man of Law’s Intro., Prologue, and Tale”

                              “The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Friar’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Summoner’s Prologue and Tale”

                               “The Clerk’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Merchant’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale”



                              Test 3


            11-15         “The Physician’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Pardoner’s Intro., Prologue, and Tale”

                              “The Shipman’s Tale”

                              “The Prioress’ Prologue and Tale”

                              "The Monk's Tale"

                              “The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue and Tale”

                              "The Second Nun's Tale"

                              “The Cannon Yeoman’s Prologue and Tale”

                              “The Manciple’s Tale”

                              “Chaucer’s Retraction”

                              Review and evaluation of the tales


                              Test 4


Evaluation:  Your final grade in this course will come from your class participation, translation quizzes, tests, book/word reviews and research paper. 

  1. Participation in class discussions and interactions, journals, and short assigned writing pieces will count 10% of your final grade.

  2. From time to time I will assign you a passage of 25-75 lines in Middle English to study; at the next class period I will give you a short excerpt from the passage to translate in class.  Collectively these translation quizzes will count 10% of your final grade.

  3. The four major tests/essays will measure your knowledge of the material you have read and we have discussed in class.  Typically the tests will combine objective and subjective questions.  Collectively the major tests/essays will count 40% of your final grade. 

  4. You will also be asked to write a book review on one of the books listed in the bibliography below (or another book approved by me).  The book review should be 750-1,000 words and will count 10% of your final grade. Due by midnight, November 23, 2014.

  5. You will be assigned a word study that will require you to do research on the origin, use, appearance and influence of a middle English word or phrase; this study should be between 500 to 750 words and will count 10% of your final grade. Due by midnight, November 7, 2014.

  6. You will develop a creative project (recitations, well-done skits or video versions of portions of works we study, satires, "modern-language" versions of portions of the poems, audio recordings, computer presentations, etc.--check out your idea with me and get approval before beginning work on this); this creative project will count 10% of your final grade. Due on or before the last day of class.

  7. Finally, you will be required to write a literary analysis on some aspect of the medieval literature we study during the semester.  This paper must be thoughtful, interesting, and competently written; in addition, the paper should demonstrate critical thinking and analysis as well as appropriate research techniques.  All quotations from the plays or tales must be in Middle English.  The paper must be 1,500 to 2,000 words and will count 10% of your final grade. Due by midnight, December 1, 2014.

  8. There are a total of 1000 pts. possible in the course. Final grades will be compiled using the following guidelines:
    1000-900    A to A-
    899-800      B+ to B-
    799-700      C+ to C-
    699-600      D+ to D-
    599-0          F

Bibliography:  In addition to the books listed below that are on reserve in the library, you can also find there two journals that may be of help in doing research: The Chaucer Review and the Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Ackerman, Robert. Backgrounds to Medieval English Literature.

Beadle Richard, and Alan Fletcher. The Cambridge Companion to Medieval English Theater.

Beadle, Richard and Pamela King, eds.  York Mystery Plays.

Bennett, H. S. Chaucer and the Fifteenth Century (OHEL).

Bennett, J. A. W., and Douglas Grant. Middle English Literature, 1100-1400 (OHEL).

Boitani, Piero and Jill Mann. The Cambridge Companion to Chaucer, 2nd ed.

Bryan, W. F., and Germaine Dempster, eds.  Sources and Analogues of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

Brewer, Derek.  Chaucer in His Time.

Chambers, E. K.  The Medieval Stage.  II Volumes.

---------------.  English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages (OHEL).

Chute, Marchette.  Geoffrey Chaucer of England.

Clarke, Sidney.  The Miracle Play in England: An Account of the Early Religious Drama.

Crosby, R. C.  “The Mak Story and Its Folklore Analogues.” Speculum 20 (1945): 310-317.

Coulton, G. G.  Chaucer and His England.

Craig, Hardin.  English Religious Drama of the Middle Ages.

David, Norman, et. al. A Chaucer Glossary.

Glowka, Arthur.  A Guide to Chaucer’s Meter.

Haskell, Ann S. A Middle English Anthology.

Hines, John. The Fabliau in English.

Hussey, S. S.  Chaucer: An Introduction.

Kaula, David.  “Time and the Timeless in Everyman and Dr. Faustus.”  College English 22 (Oct. 1960): 9+.

Kittredge, George. Chaucer and His Poetry.

Lewis, C. S. The Allegory of Love: A Study in Medieval Tradition.

--------. The Discarded Image: An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature.

Lovejoy, Arthur. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea.

Lumiansky, R. M. Of Sondry Folk: The Dramatic Principle in the Canterbury Tales.

Morgan, Margery.  “`High Fraud:’ Paradox and Double Plot in the English Shepherd’s Plays.”  Speculum 39 (1964): 676-89.

Mosse, F.  Handbook of Middle English.

Muscatine, Charles.  Chaucer and the French Tradition.

Rowland, Beryl.  Companion to Chaucer Studies.

Schoeck, Richard and Jerome Taylor, eds.  Chaucer Criticism, Vols. 1 and 2

Shipley, J.  Dictionary of Early English.

Stratmann, F. H.  A Middle English Dictionary.

Tillyard. E. M. W. The Elizabethan World Picture.

Van Laan, Thomas F.  Everyman: A Structural Analysis.”  PMLA 78 (1963): 465-475.

Wilson, F. P., and G. K. Hunter. The English Drama, 1485-1585 (OHEL).

Wilson, R. M.  Early Middle English Literature. 

Library: All students are encouraged to take advantage of the services and resources available from the library.  You can search the online catalog and the library’s databases by going to http://www.montreat.edu/library/.  Select “Catalog” to search the online catalog or “Electronic Resources” to search the databases.  The catalog lists all of the books in the Montreat College library as well as the holdings of five other colleges.  You may check out books from all of these libraries.  In addition, you may request books or journal articles via interlibrary loan.  From the online catalog, you can also check on reserve materials by selecting “Reserve Desk” and searching by instructor name or course name.  
The list of databases at http://www.montreat.edu/library/completeelectronic.asp provides links to a variety of databases containing journal articles, online reference sources, and electronic books (ebooks).  These databases are accessible both on and off campus. You can search for journals at http://www.montreat.edu/library/electronic.asp.  Ask the library staff for a password for remote access if you live off campus.
Academic Integrity: For all individual assignments students are expected to present their own work; documentation of research must follow the MLA Handbook for Writer of Research Paper or MLA-Style Citations of Electronic Sources.  Cases of academic dishonesty, including but not limited to cheating and plagiarism, will result in either of failure of the assignment or of the course.

In addition, for all tests and papers you must sign off on the following statement before I will grade your test or paper: “On my honor as a Montreat student, I certify that this assignment is my own work, except where I acknowledged the use of the works of others."

Message from the  Writing Center:


To write successful essays, we need to follow a process of planning, drafting, and revising your papers.  The Writing Center tutors will work with you one-on-one on any or all parts of this process.  This academic service is here to serve you and assist you in becoming a confident writer.

The Writing Center is located in Library 105.   The Center is open Sunday - Thursday between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.  An appointment is not necessary. You may contact the Center Coordinator, Fran Kalisch, fkalisch@montreat.edu, if you have questions.  In addition, please know that an excellent internet resource is available to you at all times—Writing Center Libguide http://www.montreat.libguides.com/writingcenter


"Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar."  ​E.B. White 

Final comments: As you can see, this syllabus is on-line; for the most accurate information about the course, go to listing for this course on Moodle.

I reserve the right to make minor changes to the syllabus and course requirements as we move through the semester.