I've started actually putting together my Chaucer syllabus. I love doing a syllabus (note the not so subtle avoidance of the plural?). I dug out my last Chaucer syllabus, in large part because I felt the class went really well, and I want to teach basically the same works, I think.
I have one problem with choosing the works: For reasons I won't really go into here, it's MUCH easier for me to order Chaucer's Major Poetry (ed. Baugh) for my students than the Riverside Chaucer (which is appealing available in paperback these days, at about half the price). (It's uncertain if I'll be teaching Chaucer much in the future; we offer it only every other year, it's five years since the last time for me, and I know one of my colleagues would probably also be happy to teach it. Also, there may or may not be another colleague who wants in. So it may not be worth pushing for a new textbook.) Naturally, my layers of notes are in my Riverside. And naturally, the fragment and line numberings of the two texts for the CT don't coincide.
Here's my dilemma: In the last class, also a spring term, I started with a few shorter poems, "The Book of the Duchess," then taught "The Parliament of Foules," and then went on to selections from The Canterbury Tales. In many ways, it was a satisfying structure. But, most students typically want to write about CT (because, seriously, who can resist?), and putting it at the end means that they've read fewer tales by the time they're ready to start brainstorming about their research questions, and so seem to have fewer choices.
I REALLY like starting with a few short poems and the "Book of the Duchess." It just feels like a great place to start for me; I've split it into short sections for daily reading to start students more slowly on the language, and to be honest, I love the poem.
One possible solution is to move "The Parliament of Foules" to the end of the semester, and move the CT up. That moves the CT up by about three class hours (the class meets three days a week, one hour each day), ie. one week. That would help a bit with the research paper issue.
On the other hand, the way my syllabus was set up last time, we read the "Parliament" over the week of Valentine's Day. I'm not a big fan of Valentine's Day, but it's VERY hard to resist teaching the "Parliament" on Valentine's! Because we all KNOW that birds choose their mates on February 14th. Duh! (I also love teaching Henry V so that we're doing the St. Crispin's day speech on October 25th.) The "Parliament" also gives students another great example of a Dream Vision poem, which follows nicely from the "Book of the Duchess" and prepares them to really "get" "The Nun's Priest's Tale." And, chronologically, it makes some sense (though teaching "Adam Scriven" early on doesn't make chronological sense at all).
Ending the semester with the "Parliament" would mean that we'd end on a really fun note, remind them of the joys of the Dream Vision, and it's not like my students won't remember what Valentine's Day is all about in May...
Here's another advice request: One of my friends suggested I have the students do a short OED word exercise early on, which does sound great. But now I need a list of 15 good words. I could put an early modern list together pretty easily, but a Middle English list will be a bit harder for me. So, I'd appreciate suggestions there, too!
Thanks in advances for any and all responses and suggestions!