Canterbury Tales Illumination Project Stage 3:

Contextualizing, Glossing Over, and Talking Back

In this third and final stage, students will react to earlier commentaries and glosses.

Here, critiques and compliments should appear in equal measure!

Introduction: In this final stage, I really look for students to make connections to other texts, particularly ones we have read throughout the year. Remember to save some time for the class to admire all the pages at the end; it's really fun for them to see where that first gloss eventually went, or what the third gloss thought of their second one.

Text: Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales

Grade: Sophomores

Difficulty: Difficult (I only do this with Honors students)

Applications: You could use any middle English text for the basis of this project.

For part three of this project, we venture into some of the more paradoxical aspects of the activity of glossing. In this stage, your glosses will function to erode the authority of the text and its previous glosses. In other words, you are attempting to comment on the glosses previously made. In so doing, you may end up arguing with some of the text’s earlier commentators, which is fine. As a result, your gloss in this stage will function on at least one of three levels: 1) It will talk to the text itself; 2) It will talk to the definitions provided by the first student, and/or 3) It will talk to the illustrations and comments made by the most recent contributor to the text. Think of this as annotating a work; rather than bringing factual/historical knowledge onto the page as you did with the previous two glosses, you are now bringing your own opinion to the text in front of you.


For part three of this assignment, provide your excerpt with the following:


1) A gloss (or more than one!) that note(s) one of Chaucer’s sources or a work that deals with related material (post-medieval texts are OK to use!). In other words, link this text to other ones.


2) A commentary (or commentaries) that disagree(s) with a previous commentary that already exists on the page, either in the form of a definition/translation or in the form of an illustration or explanatory note.


When you hand in your third and final gloss, you will be able to view your classmates’ work as well.