Monday, December 19, 2005

Some Chaucer help, please!

Well, in grading avoidance mode, I've been thinking about my Chaucer class next semester. Teaching Chaucer's a delightful treat for me, maybe even better in some ways than teaching Shakespeare. But, there's also a different level of difficulty because of late, I've only gotten to teach Chaucer about every 5th year. So I don't keep up as well as I should between times.

This isn't ideal, but it's what we've got for now, anyway.

Here's where you, dear reader (I'm sure there's one out there!) come in! One of the assignments I give in my seminar level classes is to write a book review. It's useful because students actually read a book of criticism, think about criticism in a different way (I hope), and then write a review of the book. The reviews are shared by all seminar members and we discuss them in class, so that by the last third of the term, when students are buried deep in writing seminar papers, they have a ready made bibliography to help them find useful secondary sources. (It also helps them see a model of critical writing AND gives us a chance to talk about genre in their writing.)

I spent some time last summer prepping, so I've ordered a number of books for our library, but I see that the enrollment is higher than I'd realized, and some of the books I ordered are just too hard for our undergrads, so I'm looking for, desperately seeking, some help.

Can you suggest a recent (last 5-10 years) book on Chaucer or related issues (social history, for example), that's appropriate for advanced undergrads, and in print (preferably available in soft cover)? (Is there a medieval source as useful as the SEL annual review for early modern drama and non-drama work?) If you've got a great older suggestion, I'll happily check that out, too.

While I'm at it, I've also started wishing I had some CDs or tapes of someone else reading Chaucer aloud (in Middle English) so that students can hear a better, or at the least, different accent than mine while they're learning. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Thanks in advance for any help you folks can provide!


  1. Anonymous5:50 PM

    Are you familiar with the Chaucer Listserv, out of UIC? I believe Thomas Bestul is the listserv mod (or was, when I was a regular member). If not, you might want to register, post your query on the list. Should receive some productive feedback, I'm inclined to think (speaking from my own experience).
    Good luck.

  2. Hi Bardiac. I'm very late to this post because I've been out of the blogging loop since about the time you posted this. I assume, though, that you have your comments set to be e-mailed to you and will see this.

    There are numerous on-line sound clips of different people (men and women) reading all sorts of excerpts from Chaucer's work available here: And if you want to order tapes, nothing beats The Chaucer Studio. Here's their site:

    I'm trying to think of a recent, accessible book on Chaucer and for some reason drawing a blank. When I've assigned short articles, students have actually like New Historicist approaches like Lee Patterson's work, though that was in the Bedford edition of the Wife of Bath and thus written with an undergrad audience in mind, which his books (now older than 10 years, of course) are not.

    And yes, there is a resource like the annual SEL review for Chaucer -- the Studies in the Age of Chaucer bibliography (annotated). It's usually about two years behind, but that should still work for you. If your library doesn't have a subscription, there's a handy-dandy online version, which I think is as up-to-date at the print version. It can be found at: (I hope you don't mind the "tinyurl" conversions. Click on the links to get the actual URLs, of course.)

    And finally, you might search The Medieval Review for Chaucer books. That can be found at:

    Hope that helps! Wish I could just suggest a book off the top of my head, but it's been awhile since I've read Chaucer criticism

  3. Oh well shoot. I thought haloscan would turn the URLs into links. Sorry about that!