This course has concessions available

Chaucer – Canterbury Tales: Medieval Literature In Context

A four-day summer-school course focusing on The Canterbury Tales, by the Medieval English author, Geoffrey Chaucer. The course will explore the text itself in some detail; and elaborate on its historical, political, theological and art-historical context in England of the 14th Century AD.

Who is this course for

No prior knowledge is necessary, but a good understanding of English is essential.

We will be discussing the following texts, copies of which students are advised to acquire:

G. Chaucer & N. Coghill (trans) 2003 The Canterbury Tales, Penguin Classics. This is a modern English translation.
G. Chaucer & J. Mann (ed) 2015 The Canterbury Tales, Penguin Classics. This is the original Middle English text with footnotes.

What does this course cover

We will begin by considering the context, setting, interpretation, and influence of the text. We will then look at selected passages in detail, explaining their significance in relation to the history, politics, theology, art and literature of the time and places in which the poem was composed and circulated. Drawing on literary and visual evidence, we will consider the poem's relationships to aspects of High Medieval society, philosophy, and religious belief.

By the end of this course, you should be able to:
' Read the text of The Canterbury Tales, both in modern English translation, and in the original Middle English, with an awareness of the poem's social, philosophical, and religious context.
' Identify elements in the text that can be related to specific historical persons and events; to places; art works; and other contemporary texts.
' Contribute to a discussion, based on the text, of aspects of Medieval culture, philosophy, and religious belief.

What will it be like

Over the four days of the course, group readings and discussions of passages from the text will be interspersed with talks, illustrated by PowerPoint presentations, focusing on aspects of the context and interpretation of the poem. All students will have the opportunity to read passages from the text, and to discuss and consider the broader issues arising from it.

What else do you need to buy or do

In addition to a copy of the set text (detailed above), students are encouraged to bring note-taking materials to the classes.

The course will be run on Zoom, please make sure you have installed it in advance of your first class on your computer or mobile device. You can sign up for free here:

You will need a microphone (it's fine to use whatever is built into your device) and camera, so we can see you via video. You may also want to use headphones during the session.
Make sure you have a small space to work in during the session.
By signing up to the course you are consenting to being on camera. The content of the lesson may be recorded by the tutor for internal education and training purposes

What this course could lead to

You might consider enrolling on other history/history of art/literature/philosophy courses run by the Centre.

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This course has concessions available for people who meet certain criteria

Got a Question about this Course?

Contact The Departmental Administrator.

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Why choose Mary Ward?

Mary Ward Centre is the adult education centre with a difference. We provide a wide range of subjects for people at all levels and run courses during the day, evening and weekends to suit your timetable. You can learn face to face at one of our centres (Bloomsbury or Waterloo) or take an online course

Get inspired and enjoy excellent teaching in an environment where each individual’s learning experience is valued. That’s what makes Mary Ward Centre ‘the friendly place to learn.’