Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
The World of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars (20 hours) Preparation for seminars 100 hours Research for essays 100 hours Witing of essays 80 hours


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion


The purpose of this module is to enable students to develop indepth knowledge of medieval literatures and the cultural contexts of medieval literary production, alongside a broader understanding of the significance of medieval literature in the modern imagination. It takes as its focus a selection from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and it also explores examples of other literary (and historical) texts which help to inform our understanding of Chaucer's project. The module develops from the brief consideration of medieval literature in the core module EN20520, and also develops some of the issues covered in the option module on Arthurian Literature EN31120 (although this is not a prerequisite).

Brief description

Witty, rude, hard hitting, evocative, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is a great collection of stories which, in many ways, exemplifies the key concerns of late medieval England. This module takes a selection of the Tales, giving students the chance to become more familiar with Chaucer's work.
The module also looks at selected wriing by other authors and commentators in order to gain a fuller picture of the issues at stake for Chaucer and his contemporaries. Students will also consider the ways that the Canterbury Tales has been reworked by later imaginative writers up to the twenty first century. We take six tales in all under three thematic headings
1. Knights, Love and Romance (the Knight's Tale and the Merchant's Tale).
2. Bribery and Corruption: Anti Clerical Satire (The Friarand the Summoner).
3. Women's power / men's power (The Nun's Priest's Tale and The Clerk's Tale).
Alongside this we devote one seminar to learning more about revolt, rebellion and heresy which are very important issues for understanding the literature of Chaucer's time, and we devote one seminar to looking at the material culture of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales including manuscripts and early printed books (one of the key manuscrpts is housed in the National Library of Wales).
For the last two weeks of the module, we devote our time to understanding the ways that Chaucer's tales have lived on in the more recent imagination. The first of these seminars deals with textual re-workings and the second with filmic and digital adaptations of The Canterbury Tales. The module's assessment options include the opportunity to engage creatively with the core text.



1 Introduction: Reviewing the General Prologue

2 and 3:
Knights, Love and Romance
The Knight's Tale and The Merchant's Tale

4 Revolt, Rebellion and Heresy: A selection of relevant contextual writing and images drawn from the recommended edition and other sources

5 Anti-clerical satire: The Friar's Tale and The Summoner's Tale

6 and 7
Women's power / men's power
The Nun's Priest's Tale and The Clerk's Tale

8 Manuscripts and books: Hengwrt MS (National Library of Wales), Caxton print, Kelmscott Chaucer

9 and 10
Re-workings: later versions of The Canterbury Tales in print, film, and virtual reality (includes extracts from Lydgate's Tale of Beryn, and BBC Adaptation, 2000)

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Written communication in the form of essay and ortfolio and oral communication during seminars
Improving own Learning and Performance Development of time management skills and research skills
Information Technology Use of online resources such as JSTOR
Personal Development and Career planning Critical reflection and the development of transferable skills
Problem solving Formulating and developing extended arguments
Research skills Through relation of medieval literatures to historical contexts, with evaluation of theoretical methods, and synthesis of critical literatures
Subject Specific Skills Enhancement of the ability to read Middle English. Detailed analysis of literary and other cultural texts and evaluation of broad intellectual concepts.
Team work Some group work in seminars


This module is at CQFW Level 6