Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wrapping up!

I wanted to say thank you to Dr. MB and for all of my fellow students! I really loved this class and found it to be really challenging and engaging. I thought everyone respected each other's interpretations and point and we always got some really great conversations going.

I'm really impressed with how far I've come in reading Middle English. I remember at the beginning of class, I had absolutely no experience and was terrified. But I got used to it and now I can read it pretty well!

Some of my favorite classes were the storytelling class, the Shipman's Tale class (any class where we did interactive or group activities), the superlative class, and the discussions for the Wife of Bath's tale and the Sir Thopas/Melibee class.

For now I'll leave you all with this horribly historically inaccurate but amusing cartoon. I definitely wouldn't have known how inaccurate the language used was before this class so I think it's a cool way to quickly show how much I've personally learned:
Image found at
I hope I see everyone in the future and that they have wonderful holidays! It was wonderful getting to know you all.

Appius's name!

So I remember when we were reading The Physician's Tale, Diane speculated on Appius's name being related to bees and apiaries. I came across an interpretation while researching and thought I'd share!

In an article I was reading, it says, "Appius, whose very name resonates with the deponent Latin verb apiscor (a rare form of the compound dipiscor) meaning 'to reach after,' 'to seize,' 'to get possession of,' 'to percieve.'"

Obviously, I think this is a really fitting name for him.

(Article referenced is "Chaucer's Maiden's Head: 'The Physician's Tale' and the Poetics of Virginity" by R. Howard Bloch.)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The End

It’s sad to say goodbye to such a great class. It has been a lot of fun. On the subject of endings, I am fascinated by Chaucer’s ending of the Canterbury Tales. The whole time I was thinking it would end much as it began, in the framing narrative with a declaration of the winner and some parting comments. Instead we get and ending that seems to flow directly from the Parson’s “tale,” focusing on Chaucer’s works and revoking a good number of them:

Wherefore I beseke yow mekely, for the mercy of God, that ye preye for me, that Crist have mercy on me and foryeve me my giltes; and namely of my translacions and enditinges of worldly vanitees, te whiche I revoke in my retracciouns: as is The Book of Troilus, The Book also of Fame, The Book of the xxv Ladies, The Book of the Duchesse, The Book of Seint Valentines day of the Parlement of Briddes, The Tales of Caunterbury, thlike that sownen into sinne…(1083-1085).

It is quite surprising to see him equivocate his “giltes” with a list of his work, or at least make them something he needs forgiveness for. It sounds very much like a confession to the reader, the person who understands the stories and what he could be forgiven for. While there were parts of the tales that I thought he might appropriately apologize for (Melibee perhaps), I was surprised to see the CTs in that list. I have heard of some of the other works in there but haven’t read them, so can’t say what is in them. All the same, these are works that people are still reading some six hundred years later and this list makes me wonder if we he would want us to. It’s a strange feeling. I read the notes for this section and they explain that there are many theories about why this is here, from deathbed recantations to mistaken inclusions to literary convention. They way this is written makes me want to say that this ending is the one that is meant to be here, perhaps because it comes so strongly on the heels of “The Parson’s Tale.” It is almost like Chaucer was moved by what he was writing while he was writing it, and by the end did not have the heart to return to the framing narrative.  It makes the whole question of who had the best story moot. Not the ending I was expecting at all.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Overall Reflections

When I was trying to decide what topic or tale to address in my next blog post I kept coming up with ideas. However, this was exactly the problem…I had way too many ideas! There were so many things that I wanted to say and a lot of thoughts that I wanted to explore, but by the time I had started delving into one of these in any depth, another idea would come into my mind. Lo and behold, I was left with more intriguing thoughts than I knew what to do with and in the end I became overwhelmed.

After a nice long break and some time to regain my sanity I revisited the idea of writing a blog post again, and thankfully this time something new occurred to me. Instead of choosing just one topic or tale to write about, I began to consider how they all worked together. I realize this is also somewhat of a complex task but getting too in depth and analytical was something that I wanted to avoid. I often feel like the allure and magic created by the complexities of Chaucer’s text can also be found in the simpler aspects of his works, however these latter, at least in my opinion, are often times brushed aside in preference of the former. While I do enjoy getting into the meat of a story/tale and really taking the time to analyze it, I also enjoy simply reading it without trying extremely or excessively hard to look further or beyond the text. I prefer this method overall because when I read like this I can allow a text to speak to me, as opposed to trying too forcefully to have its words meet my expectations. Sometimes with classes I feel like I am asked to immediately delve into a work with an analytical mindset, and to be honest this really prevents me from connecting with the text. I truly need that quiet, long and intimate time with a work in order to truly understand what it is possibly trying to tell me. I need to read it multiple times, and with each read-through I begin to turn my level of analytical thinking up. Considering all of this, I am so very glad that the structure of this course gave me the opportunity to do just that!

 I absolutely loved the way this particular course was designed because it gave me everything I needed when it came to the study of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Not only did I have enough time throughout the semester to critically analyze and think about the various meanings of his many tales, but I also had plenty of time to sit quietly with his work and read in a more simplistic manner. It was the combination of both of these reading methods that allowed me to discover and refine my understanding of the overall beauty of Chaucer. While his tales are great in and of themselves, they work even better as a whole unit.

However, at this point there is still so much more that I have yet to uncover in his tales and I honestly don’t know where I would have been if I didn’t have a whole semester to devote to this one text alone. Even though we read a separate tale each week I still feel like we were always thinking about how each one related to one another. I feel like this mindset was essential to my reading and understanding of Chaucer, and I don’t know that I would have gained it through another approach to reading the Canterbury Tales. I can hardly even imagine trying to tackle this monumental story in pieces or in conjunction with other works – it just wouldn’t have been as great of an experience!

Additionally, taking the time to consider/read Chaucer’s work as a whole provided me with an opportunity to delve into the world of the Middle English Language. I had some previous experience with Old English but this was my first time working so intensely and directly with the Middle English Language. As the semester went on I became much, much better at reading, and I didn’t find myself starting and stopping like I had in the beginning. It was also great that we were able to have such casual yet interactive class discussions. I often felt like I was missing pieces of Chaucer’s tales but after the discussions a lot of these pieces had been filled in for me. By the end of the semester I felt more comfortable not only with the Middle English Language itself, but also with my ability to derive meaning from it. At the start of the semester I was always second-guessing weather or not I was reading something correctly, but by the end of the semester I wasn’t doing this as much.

Overall, this entire experience was fantastic and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I loved having the ability to read Chaucer’s work as a whole and I thought the way the class was structured was fantastic. (Plus, who can forget the feast?! ) In the end I learned more than I really thought I would about Chaucer and his works. 

Tales to Introduce Chaucer

When I first tried to answer the question posed in class of which two tales would work best for an introduction to a British Literature course, I’ll have to admit that I was a bit stumped.

To be completely honest my first instinct was to want to say, “anything but the Wife of Bath,” but of course I immediately thought the better of it. There is no way possible to teach the Canterbury Tales, or even a British Literature course without mentioning the Wife of Bath, and indeed to do so would truly be a shame. Even though I don’t particularly enjoy this tale, as I feel like it is oftentimes too overplayed, I do realize that this is due to its very real significance and importance. I’ve had the W.O.B taught in too many classes to count, (which is why I no longer particularly enjoy reading it) however, students taking an introductory course to British literature need to be exposed to this tale. They don’t need to be beaten over the head with it… but they do need to know it.

In addition, I also believe that teaching The Pardoner’s tale would be a fantastic idea for an introduction course! The most obvious reason for this would be the clear connections between this tale and that of the Three Brother’s from, Harry Potter. I feel like this is a fantastic connection to utilize and take advantage of because many people who are familiar with Rowling’s story may not realize that it has its roots in Chaucer’s tale. This may be just me, but I also believe that this tale doesn’t get as much attention or exposure (at least considering the background of those who would be taking an intro course) which is why it makes for a more interesting choice. This was only my second time reading this tale as opposed to the Wife of Bath, which I’ve read over and over.

So to sum everything up, and after a lot of thought and deliberation, I believe that the two tales I’d recommend for an intro to British Literature course would be the Wife of Bath and the Pardoner’s Tale. There is no escaping the former but I truly believe the latter is a unique and refreshing choice in so many different ways, and combined they balance each other out perfectly. It was incredibly difficult to chose but in the end I feel like these two make for the best pair.

Also, as I was about to post this entry I noticed Heather’s post on the blog, which talks about this same subject. Clearly we’re of a similar mind because we chose the same two tales! I figured I’d mention this here instead of in a comment since it was easier but I really liked what she had to say about the Wife of Bath. Read it if you haven’t already because its great :) 

A Note & Superlatives

Hello everyone,
Firstly, I’d like to apologize for my lack of posts recently. It had been my original intention to write a few posts for the blog over the Thanksgiving break, however instead, my lovely fiancĂ©, Thomas decided that it would be a great time to have his lung spontaneously collapse! We had to take him to the emergency room on the first day of break and he stayed throughout the week. Thankfully, he is home and doing pretty well now, and with some luck he hopefully won’t need surgery. All things considered I wasn’t able to write anything for the blog while all of this was going on, so you’re getting my posts now, and again sorry about the delay!

I also had to miss a class or two because of this, which brings me to my second thought: when we were putting the list of superlatives together in class (on what turned out to be our last day nonetheless!) I didn’t have too much to say. This wasn’t because I wasn’t interested, but rather because I wasn’t quite sure which tales I’d pick. For whatever reason I was unaware that we would be putting together a list of superlatives, so when I got to class and saw all of the various categories go up on the boards I wasn’t sure which tales I would place in which categories. I did write a few things up on the board but overall I was reserved in my choices. Plus, I had a lot going on so my memory was incredibly foggy that day which prevented me from participating as much as I would have liked to.

To solve this problem I decided to make a brief list of superlatives myself, after giving the tales more consideration and having time to think over my choices carefully.

Top Three Favorite Tales:

1. The Friar’s Tale – I absolutely love this tale. At first I had trouble seeing its magic but as I began to read it over and over again I became obsessed. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this tale because I didn’t have to over think anything. Instead of trying with difficulty to see what was hidden in the text all I did was read it, again and again. With each read-through I was able to make connections and see things that I hadn’t the first time. Overall, this was my favorite tale this semester.

2. The Pardoner’s Tale – I don’t really know what else to say about this tale other than how fantastic I think it is. The story itself is great fun to read in and of itself, but in addition there are also a lot of possibilities and thoughts to explore related to this particular tale. It has connections to the medieval world as well as to our modern day society, perhaps even more so than some of the other tales, and all of these elements make it simply fantastic.

3. Thopas / Melibee – These tales made my favorite list simply because of how snarky they are. Thopas is so much fun to read and once you realize what is going on with the poetry itself… the story becomes infinitely more intriguing. I also love Melibee because it is a clear and brilliant statement from Chaucer. What makes the tale even better is that it is actually a well-composed story. I feel like that took an extreme amount of patience and dedication to complete, mixed with a bit of sass of course.

Top Three Least Favorite Tales:

1. The Wife of Bath – I’m sure I’ve made some of you cringe with the selection of this tale as my least favorite but to be perfectly honest I have had quite enough of the Wife of Bath for a now. I’ve been exposed to this tale in so many different classes and contexts by this point that I am really quite sick of it at the present time. I do love and appreciate the tale for what it is; however I have simply had enough for a while. I’m sure I’ll find a new way to appreciate and see this tale in the years to come but for now I’d rather read something else.

2. The Reeve’s Tale – I’ve chosen this tale as my second least favorite because I honestly thought it wasn’t all that great. I just didn’t buy the story and since I was able to predict what was coming next I wasn’t able to connect with it in any kind of significant way. Thus, I didn’t enjoy it that much.

3. The Knight’s Tale – Even though this tale is a prefect example of a well-written/spoken tale… I still didn’t like reading it. I guess it was the combination of my unfamiliarity with the Middle English Language as well as my uneasy feeling about the plot line that caused my sour feeing towards the tale to develop, but in the end I would simple prefer to spend more time discussing another tale as opposed to this one.

Favorite Character:
The Fiend from the Friar’s Tale – He’s just so incredibly honest and yet excessively devious at the same time. My favorite character by far!!

Least Favorite Character:
The Queen from the Wife of Bath’s Tale – The knight needed to die. End. Of. Story.

Two Tales I Would Read to My Child:
1. Thopas – I believe this tale is super fun even if it is unfinished, going nowhere fast and incredibly snarky on the part of Chaucer. It’d make a perfect story for a child in my opinion.

2. The Friar’s Tale – I would read this story to my child over and over again if given the chance. Not only is it my favorite of the Canterbury Tales, but I also believe that there are many valuable lessons to be learned from the story.

Two Tales I Wouldn’t Read to My Child:
1. The Clerk’s Tale – To be quite honest I really hated this tale and I would never want to read it to my child for fear that they would think it acceptable to emulate any of the characters’ actions. Just no.

2. The Summoner’s Tale – Even though I like this tale I feel like it may not be quite right for a child. Simple as that :)

Two Tales I’d Recommend for a British Lit. Introduction Course:
1. The Wife of Bath
2. Pardoner’s Tale
(See my next blog post for a more in depth explanation of my choices)

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed reading these tales this semester, even the ones that I didn’t particularly like that much. The entire experience of reading the tales one right after another was the biggest success of my semester, as well as my favorite part! Thanks to everyone for making it so fantastic! 

A Final Note

We talked in class about what are good introduction stories out of this text for a Introduction to British Literature Class. If I were going to pick two, I would hands down pick "The Wife of Bath's Tale" and "The Pardoner's Tale".

"The Wife of Bath's Tale" is an ideal story for what someone imagines when thinking of Medieval British Literature, in my opinion. The time and setting of the tale, in the mix of King Arthur and other character fulfills this basic idea of what Medieval Britain represents. There is fantasy, and quest, with a moral lesson that alters the character of a man, and he is impacted by love.  To me, this just fits perfectly in the idea of an introduction class because it meets so many expectations, but at the same time, when comparing it to the "Wife of Bath's Prologue" there are other factors, like gender roles, that someone new to this time period never would have considered.

"The Pardoner's Tale" would be the other one.  To start, I loved it, and it was my favorite tale of the semester. I thought the story was very entertaining, and moved easily. Next, I was really surprised at the connections I made throughout the semester with this tale. When our Magic Class read Grimm's Fairy Tales this semester, I read "Godfather Death".  As I was reading that story, I could help, but feel like in some ways "The Pardoner's Tale" was a foundation for stories that came later. Then I took into account the story of the "Three Brother's" in Harry Potter, and felt like lesson come from these stories was that Death is not scary, but an equalizer. He can't be cheated, and he can't allow the world to be unbalanced. It not scary or evil, but actually the most strict form of fairness. Anyway, I really enjoyed this particular story in The Canterbury Tales, and i think it has a darkness to it that's appealing, but can be relatable to modern text allowing students to see where some ideas might have come from.