Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Looking for Brilliance, CT Edition

I'm teaching "Sir Thopas" for the first time in either a long time, or a really long time, I think.  Long enough, or poorly enough, that I can't find my usual folder of notes, so I've been spending time today prepping, reading up, and so on.

It seems like there's a lot to pack into 50 minutes from a very short text, no?

So, what would you absolutely want to include?  What should I just not dare forget?

How do I get across to my students who haven't read tons of romances how absolutely brilliant this is?

And soon, I'll be teaching the "Canon's Yeoman's Tale," and I'm in the same boat, except it's a lot longer.


(I think I end up cutting stuff from the CT class for time; but I put these in this time, and especially the CYT seems really important to me, or at least it did when I made up the syllabus.  Not being a real medievalist, I sometimes wonder if I've made the best choices in what to teach over the semester; maybe I'll try to go faster over the KT next time?  It seems like I take a good long time trying to get them to read and get the language and such, and it seems necessary.  Would any real medievalist be up for sharing their CT calendar/syllabus, please?)

I'm at that point in the spring and the semester when it feels like I should be desperate, but somehow I'm not.  I'm reasonably caught up on grading, and while spring seems especially slow, I'm less cranky about it than a lot of folks I know.  But I'm sort of plugging away at work and life, and doing some birding more than most springs, but I don't have much to write about that's really exciting.

I did see my first ever Yellow-rumped Warbler in my yard (I've seen them elsewhere, just not in my yard), at my suet feeder.  I'm guessing it was hungry and that was better than nothing.  I saw it for a short bit the other day, long enough that using my binoculars (pretty much always at the ready next to this window) to identifying a relatively common, distinct bird was good, not long enough to dig out the camera and take a picture.  But I haven't seen it since.

I also saw the first Brown-headed Cowbird of the year in the yard this morning.  So I do think spring is on the way.

But there's not much else to say about it that isn't complaining about the cold.


  1. Well, you could always point out all the ways Monty Python ripped it off (the fierce wild hares, the minstrels ...)

    On reading it again, I'm amused by the sheer number of times Chaucer manages to work in the word "pricking." (I assume this already had double-entendre potential? It certainly does by the time Mistress Quickly comes along...)

    1. Well, one meaning of "priken" is "to penetrate a hole" (1.h) http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/med-idx?type=id&id=MED34614
      but "prike" does not appear to be attested in the sense "sely instrument": http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/m/mec/med-idx?type=id&id=MED34609

      I think the repetition has more to do with the formulaic language common to tale-rhyme romance.

      I usually present Lee Patterson's notion that Sir T is really about a little boy dressed up as a knight, rampaging through his mother's garden and annoying the gardener (re-imagined as a giant), and that this is another layer to Chaucer's satire of traditional romances. Also say that this is where Spenser gets his falling-in-love-in-a-dream trope. But as an enthusiast of the traditional romance, I find the tale a little annoying. Really not a fan of CYT, so I can't help there, either.

  2. I always teach the Canon's Yeoman's Tale after the Second Nun's Tale, and we have lots of fun funding the continuities between what seem at first like utterly different tales with nothing in common. I almost never really teach Sir Thopas, though we generally will spend a little bit of class time on it talking about romance. I often make it one of those readings for anyone interested in doing more, going further, etc.

    I'd be happy to share my undergrad Chaucer syllabus. It's a mainstay for me, and I just taught it last fall. You can e-mail me at nwarren@tamu.edu.

    Nancy Warren