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Middle English Dictionary


UMass Library
Google Books
Electronic Cant.Tales
Corpus of Middle English
Chaucer Meta-page
Chaucer Texts Online

The Labyrinth
Medieval Sourcebook
Chaucer's Blog

Bible (Douay-Rheims)

Ellesmere portraits
Dan Kline's Chaucer page


This syllabus is subject to change. The latest version on this website is the binding syllabus.


S. Harris
Office: Bartlett 259
Office Hours: By appointment.
545-6598 | sharris at


John Dryden called Chaucer "the father of English poetry," and equated him to Homer and Virgil. Chaucer, said Dryden, "is a perpetual fountain of good sense." This course introduces you to one of the most influential story collections of English literary history, The Canterbury Tales. Bawdy, profound, rude, and beautiful—Chaucer's tales continue to inspire, delight, confuse, and awe their readers. We will read his tales in their original Middle English. We may also read works by Chaucer's English, French, and Italian contemporaries in order to contextualize his tales. No previous knowledge of Middle English is required. Translations, short paper, and a take-home final exam.

We meet TTh 9:30 am - 10:45 am, in Bartlett 203
(Campus Map.)


Please attend classes. University guidelines for absence will be enforced. Check your handbook. My lectures are copyrighted material. Any use of my lectures in written, electronic, or recorded form without my prior consent is illegal.


Books will be ordered to Amherst Books, 8 Main St., in Amherst.

We will be using:

  1. The Canterbury Tales (Broadview, 2008). Price: 32.95

Structure & Objectives:

The focus of the course is Chaucer's art. In order to appreciate it, you will need to be comfortable reading Middle English. His art just doesn't scan as well in modern English. If you haven't seen Middle English, take a look: here is The Canterbury Tales in electronic format. First lines:

Whan that Aprille, with hise shoures soote,  
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote 
And bathed every veyne in swich licour,
Of which vertu engendred is the flour ...

You are also expected to complete your reading prior to each class--the readings average several hundred lines of Middle English per day.


Please meet with me at least once during the semester (at the least to check your grades to ensure my gradebook and your grades match up). Please make an appointment to meet at a time convenient to you and I will try to oblige.


There is a midterm paper, 500 wds. (25%, topic); three sample translations (30%, 1, 2, 3); five quizzes (15%); and a final exam/paper (30%, topic, sample exam). See Grading Policies and Papers for more information on how I assign grades.

  • No electronic submissions.
  • ALL MISSED ASSIGNMENTS GET AN "F." If you foresee being absent, please let me know well beforehand. Check "Policies" in the help section.
  • PLAGIARISM GETS AN "F." This may be for the paper or for the course, at my discretion. Please check your student handbook and university guidelines for more on plagiarism.
  • ALL PAPERS MUST BE TYPED OR WORD-PROCESSED. Not doing so reduces your grade by one letter-value (e.g., "C" down to "D").



NOTE 1: There is no note 1.

NOTE 2: The course schedule is subject to change. It is not to be construed as a substitute for your attendance or as a catalogue of all the information for which you are responsible. All changes will be announced with a reasonable lead time. This syllabus constitutes a binding contract between the student and the professor. If you do not agree with any of the provisions set herein or if you foresee disagreeing with any of the provisions which may be reasonably added during the course of the term, then you are free to drop this class within the time allotted by the university.

NOTE 3: All material pertaining to this course--namely but not exclusively handouts, quizzes, exams, tests, maps, graphs, charts, printed matter, recorded matter, electronic matter including but not limited to this syllabus and associated electronic documents, films, video clips, conversations, office consultations, classroom responses, lectures, asides, answers to classroom queries, tattoos, chants, psychic acts, semaphor, interpretative dance, meaningful hand signals, channeling of ancient gods, and related utterances--is copyrighted material and is subject to international and US laws of copyright. Enrollment in this course constitutes tacit acceptance of this agreement and of the copyright claims made therein. Any breach of this agreement or use of copyrighted material by any member of the university or the public without prior consent will be met with legal action.


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Academic Schedule