2019 - 2020

  Chaucer: Dream Visions and Troilus and Criseyde  
Jonathan StavskyWebb - School of Languages301 Mon1000-1200 Sem  1
Webb - School of Languages301 Mon1000-1200 Sem  1
University credit hours:  4.0

Course description

Chaucer: Dream Visions and Troilus and Criseyde

BA Seminar (2019–2020) / Dr. Jonathan Stavsky

Best known today as the author of the Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer began his career by writing experimental dream visions that probe the nature of love, loss, poetic fame, and worldly mutability. As his voice gained maturity, he embarked on his first major project: Troilus and Criseyde, the story of a tragic love affair that unfolds against the background of the Trojan War, among the most complex and rewarding long narrative poems in the English language. A few years later, he produced the Legend of Good Women, an unfinished collection of stories proposing—or purporting—to vindicate women from misogynist stereotypes.

This course is an opportunity to read these works from cover to cover, together with several of their sources and selected critical articles illustrating some of the main approaches that scholars have brought to bear on them. No prior knowledge of Middle English is required. However, all texts written in this language will be studied in the original, and you will quickly be expected to become proficient in the grammar, core vocabulary, and pronunciation of its London dialect, the basis of the early modern literary standard.


  • Introduction to British Culture I;
  • Poetry Analysis;
  • Narrative Analysis;
  • Writing Proseminar.

Additional courses on pre-1700 literature are recommended but not required.

NOTE: This seminar may be taken as an advanced course (121). Students who were enrolled in “Chaucer: Early Works and Troilus and Criseyde” (0626292401) in 2017–2018 are not allowed to sign up for it because the reading material for both courses overlaps.

Required Edition of Chaucer

In advance of the semester, you must get hold of the standard edition of Chaucer’s works, which comes equipped with glosses, footnotes, and explanatory notes that are designed to help you read and understand his poetry in the original Middle English:

  • Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Riverside Chaucer. Edited by Larry D. Benson, 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2008. ISBN: 0199552096.

No other editions of Chaucer are permitted. You will not be able to participate in class discussion or write your papers unless you have access to this book. Several copies are available at the Central Library, but not enough for everyone. The most convenient option is to order one from abroad or buy it second-hand. I have found Blackwells.co.uk to be an affordable and reliable option, but you may choose to look for other bargains here.

All other required texts will be made available on the course website.


  • Regular attendance during the entire course, including make-up classes (10%);
  • A midterm paper of about 1,500 words, to be submitted via the course Moodle by the date and hour there specified (20%);
  • A seminar paper based on your approved research proposal or a referat (70%), to be submitted via Moodle by the deadline specified in the departmental prospectus.

To pass this course, you must attend the required number of classes, submit all papers on time, and receive a passing grade for each.

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