A Second Literary Pilgrimage Through The Canterbury Tales: A Six-Part Course with Margaret McCurry

A Second Literary Pilgrimage Through The Canterbury Tales: A Six-Part Course with Margaret McCurry


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This course will study more of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, including its influential source texts, its unforgettable narratives, and its historical context within Medieval England. This course is intended for participants with little to no prior experience in studying medieval literature; translations in Modern English will be provided.

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is among the most influential works of English literature. The frame narrative revolves around a storytelling competition that features tales of every genre: the romantic quest of the chivalrous knight; the perilous voyage into the unknown; the bawdy plot of the trickster’s prank; and the magical transformation of the landscape, among several others. Chaucer’s pilgrims craft stories that test the boundaries of social possibility, weighing the competing claims of allegory and realism; chivalry and commerce; and traditional authority and individual experience. As we read through the Canterbury Tales, we will ride along with the Canterbury pilgrims on our own journey through the Middle Ages.

Led by an emerging scholar of medieval literature, Margaret McCurry, this course will guide participants through prominent selections from the Canterbury Tales. Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will enjoy learning about the historical and cultural background of the celebrated text and studying its insight into the human condition.

You may also like A Literary Pilgrimage Through Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: A Four-Part Course with McCurry. The two courses can be taken in tandem or independently in any order.

Lecture 1: The Miller’s Prologue and Tale; The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale

This lecture will begin with an introductory study of our ancestor language of Middle English, the colorful language in which Chaucer wrote. It will also introduce the naughtiest characters in the Canterbury Tales, the Miller and the Reeve, who compete to outdo one another by telling tales of sexuality, flatulence, and practical jokes. 

Recommended Reading: Please read the Miller’s Prologue (lines 3109-3186) and Tale (lines, 3187-3854); as well as the Reeve’s Prologue (lines 3855-3920) and Tale (lines 3921-4324), found here: 

1. The Miller’s Prologue and Tale

2. The Reeve’s Prologue and Tale

Lecture 2: The Merchant’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue; The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale

Both “The Merchant’s Tale” and “The Franklin’s Tale” center on the theme of marriage. Featuring the original “January and May relationship,” “The Merchant’s Tale” illustrates the devastating consequences of a marriage between incongruous partners. “The Franklin’s Tale,” on the other hand, illustrates a marriage between equals whose mutual trust and faith preserves them during their time of trial.  

Recommended Reading: Please read the Merchant’s Prologue (lines 1213-1244), Tale (lines 1245-2418), and Epilogue (lines 2419-2440); as well as the Franklin’s Prologue (lines 709-728) and Tale (lines 729-1624), found here: 

1. The Merchant’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

2. The Franklin’s Prologue and Tale

Lecture 3: The Prioress’ Prologue and Tale; The Man of Law’s Introduction, Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

While the Canterbury Tales is a surprisingly innovative work of medieval literature, it also features offensive themes of xenophobia, sexism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. This lecture will investigate two challenging narratives: the blood libel plot of “The Prioress’ Tale” and the prejudice against the Muslim Syrians in “The Man of Law’s Tale.” Together, we will untangle the tales’ destructive discrimination from their constructive themes of devotion. This lecture will also provide an overview of religious persecution during the Middle Ages. 

Recommended Reading: Please read the Shipman-Prioress Link (lines 435-452), the Prioress’ Prologue (lines 453-487), and Tale (lines, 488-690); as well as the Man of Law’s Introduction (lines 1-98), Prologue (lines 99-133), Tale (lines 134-1162), and Epilogue (lines 1163-1190), found here: 

1. The Shipman-Prioress Link 

2. The Prioress’ Prologue and Tale

3. The Man of Law’s Introduction, Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue

Lecture 4: The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue; 

This lecture will address the most memorable tale, “The Nun’s Priest’s Tale,” which centers on Chaunticleer, a rooster whose beautiful voice singlehandedly raises the sun each morning. 

Recommended Reading: Please read the Nun’s Priest’s Prologue (lines 2767-2820), Tale (lines  2821-3446), and Epilogue (lines 3447-3462), found here: 

1. The Nun’s Priest’s Prologue, Tale and Epilogue

Lecture 5: The Pardoner’s Introduction, Prologue, and Tale

Does a simulated object have the same potency as the real version? In the Prologue to his Tale, the Pardoner intimidates the pilgrims into buying his indulgences and his relics, even after revealing to them that they are forgeries and fakes. After studying the history, purposes, and functions of medieval indulgences and relics, we will turn our attention to the simulation theory of Jean Baudrillard so as to understand the Pardoner’s contradictory actions.   

Recommended Reading: Please read the Pardoner’s Introduction (lines 287-328), Prologue (lines 329-462), and Tale (463-968), found here: 

1. The Pardoner’s Introduction, Prologue, and Tale

Lecture 6: The Cook’s Prologue and Tale; The Squire’s Introduction and Tale; Chaucer’s Retraction

Although the Canterbury Tales is considered to be Chaucer’s magnum opus, it remains unfinished and incomplete. This lecture will focus on two incomplete tales, the Cook’s Tale and the Squire’s Tale. Together, we will investigate the possible reasons as to why these particular stories were never completed. 

Recommended Reading: Please read the Cook’s Prologue (lines 4325-4364) and Tale (lines 4365-4422); the Introduction to the Squire’s Tale (lines 1-8), the Squire’s Tale (9-708), and Chaucer’s Retraction, found here: 

1.  The Cook’s Prologue and Tale

2.  The Squire’s Introduction and Tale

3.  Chaucer’s Retraction

Margaret McCurry holds a master’s degree in English Literature from New York University, where she is currently working towards completing her doctorate degree. She is an emerging scholar of medieval literature, particularly of the medieval mystical tradition. Fascinated by the moments when words fail to fully capture or articulate meaning, her theoretical interests lie in non-verbal linguistics, musicology and sound studies, and disability studies.

How does it work?

This is a six-part series held weekly and hosted on Zoom. Please check the schedule for the specific dates and times for each lecture.

Is there a reading list in advance?

Though the course is open to participants with no background on this topic, there are suggested readings for further investigation. The reading list is linked above.

How long are the lectures?

Each lecture is 90 minutes long with time for Q&A.

How much is the course?

The course is $105 for three lectures.

Is a recording available?

Yes. If you need to miss a lecture, you will be sent a recording after the event.

This course is not suitable for children under age 16

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

Customer Reviews

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Always great to hear Ms McCurrys lectures, just learned she had voice training and it shows - very melodic voice! She has added more slides to her presentation and it is good to see visually what the wife of Bath or the Miller might look like. I like the videos that show someone reading in Old English with the translation side by side so that you can better understand Old English. Very engaging!

Customer Reviews

Based on 1 review
0%
(0)
100%
(1)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
0%
(0)
N
N.S.
Review

Always great to hear Ms McCurrys lectures, just learned she had voice training and it shows - very melodic voice! She has added more slides to her presentation and it is good to see visually what the wife of Bath or the Miller might look like. I like the videos that show someone reading in Old English with the translation side by side so that you can better understand Old English. Very engaging!