Monday, September 25, 2017

For Wednesday: Daniel, Fletcher, and Greville (see below)

For Wednesday: Daniel, “To Delia Sonnets” (33-36); Fletcher, “To Licia Sonnets” (66-68), Fulke Greville, “Caelica Sonnets” (80-83)

Sonnet: “A lyric poem consisting of a single stanza of fourteen iambic pentameter lines linked by an intricate rhyme scheme. There are two major patters of rhyme in the English sonnet:

  1. The Italian or Petrachian sonnet falls into two main parts: an octave (eight lines) rhyming abbaabba followed by a sestet (six lines) rhyming cdecde or some variant…
  2. The Earl of Surrey and other English experimenters in the sixteenth century also developed a stanza form called the English sonnet, or else the Shakespearean sonnet, after the greatest practitioner. The sonnet falls into three quatrains and a concluding couplet: abab dede efef gg." 
--from M.H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms (1993). 

NOTE: No questions for these Sonnets, since I want to do some writing in class on one or more of them. Just read them carefully and consider what a Sonnet sequence does: how does each one advance the story of a relationship—either from afar or from very close up—in these works. What conventions do these Sonnet use? What imagery? How do they conform to—or strive against—the Renaissance ideal? And most importantly, why do you think Sonnets were so popular in Elizabethan England? What did they allow their writers do say or do? 

Friday, September 22, 2017

For Monday: Elizabethan Poetry: Poems by Anonymous (1-8) and Campion (19-23)

[Above: The early music duo, Bedlam, performs a Campion song (not one of the ones in our book, alas) as it would have sounded in the 16th century.]

Answer TWO of the following:

Q1: Most of these poems (and all of the ones by Campion) were set to music and are more properly songs than poems. Indeed, these are the ‘pop songs’ of the 16th century, and many were quite famous, played over and over again for decades. How do they compare with modern songs/lyrics in their treatment of love? Do they have a similar relationship to falling in love, suffering in love, and breaking up? Or is there anything unique to the Elizabethan perspective?

Q2: How do one or more of these poems invoke the “death’s head” of a memento mori in their lines? Why do you think the poem invokes the presence of death in love lyrics? How might it relate to the painting of the two young men with the elongated skull (which we viewed in class)?

Q3: The Elizabethan period is famous for its syntax: note how many of the lines of specific poems seem ungrammatical, or place subjects in the wrong place, such as this line in Cherry Ripe: “Of orient pearls a double row.” Why do these poems consciously mix up the sentence structure when they could have been stated more conventionally? What is the advantage of mixed-up syntax?

Q4: Many of these poems have double entendres, or double meanings that are frankly sexual in nature—especially the poems of Campion. Where does a love poem seem to be both innocent and indecent at the same time? You might consider that the word “die” meant not only death but also “orgasm” to Elizabethan audiences.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Mid-Term Paper: The Missing Tale

He who repeats a tale after a man
Is bound to say, as nearly as he can,
Each single word, if he remembers it,
However rudely spoken or unfit

INTRO: Despite being a masterpiece of English literature, The Canterbury Tales is sadly incomplete, as each pilgrim was supposed to tell two stories on the way to Canterbury, and then two on the return voyage. As it stands, we have a single story from most of the pilgrims, with some of the most memorable ones being the ones we read in class: the Knight, the Miller, the Pardoner, and the Wife of Bath. But what of their second or third tales? Considering that all of the pilgrims used stories from an older tradition (either Greek, Italian, or English tales) it’s plausible that their next tales might have dipped into the rich well of Anglo Saxon literature, some of which Chaucer may have heard in translation or even read for himself.

PROMPT: For your Mid-Term Paper, I want you to discuss which Anglo-Saxon poem one of these pilgrims would have told for their Second Tale. Only choose one pilgrim and one poem, and use both poems to explain how the tale matches some element(s) of the pilgrim’s first story. For example, The Miller might be drawn to another story which parodies chivalric love (or love in general), whereas the Knight might relish a story of old heroic deeds in pagan lands. Consider why Chaucer would choose a specific poem for a specific pilgrim, and what the teller could do with this tale, based on his or her motives for telling the first one. Analyze elements of the pilgrim’s prologue and/or tale that sheds light on some aspect of the Anglo Saxon poem, and might help us understand themes and ideas hidden in the original. In other words, how could The Wife of Bath satirize male hypocrisy in “Wulf and Eadwacer”? Or how could the Pardoner sell his relics using a poem like “The Ruin”? Be sure to re-read each pilgrim’s description in “The General Prologue” to help you get a feel for their character and Chaucer’s critique about them.

NOTE: You can use a pilgrim whose tale we didn’t read, so long as you read their tale and analyze it in the same manner as suggested above. If you want to branch out, I particularly recommend the tales of the Clerk, the Nun’s Priest, the Merchant, and the Franklin.

DOUBLE NOTE: You can slightly change the story (if you want) based on the pilgrim’s motives and inclination. However, it has to be 80% the same and the change has to make sense within the world/logic of the poem itself.

  • 4-5 pages double spaced
  • Analysis of both poems, through quotes and discussion
  • MLA citation throughout, with Works Cited page for the poems
  • Due Friday, September 29th by 5pm

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Bonus Post: The Sounds of Chaucer's England

NOTE: Don't be confused--the questions for "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale" are below this one...

For those of you interested in probing a bit deeper into the sights and sounds of Chaucer's England, here's a brief clip showing the world Chaucer would have 'heard' in his day. Music was the chief means of transfering ideas from one land to another, since it required no translation and was immediately recognizable and enjoyable. Also, it was an even more effective way than literature of spreading the craze for secular languages, since you could learn a song in English or Italian and start singing it almost immediately, even if you barely knew the language. We don't have time in class to cover music or many other art forms, but here is a clip of an Italian 'Saltarello,' a famous dance that was imported throughout Europe and would be just as recognizable to Chaucer's ears. It's performed on period instruments by a German early music group called Ensemble Unicorn. Listen to it as you read "The Wife of Bath's Prologue" and be transported to another age...

For Monday: "The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale"

NOTE: Feel free to read both the Prologue and the Tale for Monday, though we'll only have time to really discuss the Prologue on Monday. I'll reserve Wednesday's class for the Tale. This is one of the most significant works of Medieval literature, and certainly among the most influential. If you read nothing else in The Canterbury Tales, read this one! :) 

Answer TWO of the following...

Q1: The beginning of the Wife of Bath’s Prologue is a defense of multiple marriages using her own interpretation of the Scriptures. What is her basic argument, and why might this have been shocking for its time—particularly considering the many Church figures in the audience?

Q2: At one point, the Pardoner interrupts, claiming he was thinking about marriage, but the Wife of Bath claims, “You’ll taste another brew before I’m done;/You’ll find it doesn’t taste as good as ale” (263). What are her views about marriage, especially considering she’s done it five times? Is she trying to discourage men and women from tying the knot, or does she simply have a less chivalric view of wedded bliss?  Discuss a moment that seems to illustrate this.

Q3: Toward the end of the Prologue, the Wife of Bath claims, “Lies, tears, and spinning are the things God gives/By nature to a woman, while she lives” (269). She goes on to say that “No one can be so bold—I mean no man--/At lies and swearing as a woman can” (264). How do you respond to her characterization of women in this Prologue? Is she a forward-thinking, bold-as-brass proto-feminist, or is she just another male stereotype of a greedy, nagging wife?  What sways you one way or the other?

Q4: How might the “Wife of Bath’s Tale” itself be a response to “The Knight’s Tale”? Why do you think she chooses a knight as her protagonist? Is the manner of his victory similar or different than that of Palamon and Nicolas?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

For Friday: Chaucer, “The Pardoner’s Prologue and Tale”

Answer TWO of the following: 

Q1: Why do you think the tale begins with such a lengthy Prologue? Why doesn’t he simply get on with his Tale (especially since the Prologue somewhat undercuts the Tale’s effectiveness)?  Is he simply too discursive, like the Knight, or is there another reason behind this? 

Q2: The Pardoner says the theme of all his sermons is “money is the root of all evil.” Why does he specialize in this theme, and what does his theme suggest about the profession of ‘pardoning’ in general?

Q3: The Pardoner’s Tale is a classic medieval allegory: three ‘brothers’ arming themselves to find and murder Death. Why don’t they recognize him when they find him? What makes it so easy for Death to win, according to the Pardoner (or Chaucer)?

Q4: Why does the Pardoner try to sell his relics and pardons to the entire group after his sermon? Don’t they already know that both are worthless after hearing his Prologue? Why does Chaucer include this humorous sales pitch?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

For Wednesday: "The Miller's Tale"

No questions this time around, though I will give everyone an in-class writing response to some aspect of "The Miller's Tale." Here are some things to consider when reading this poem...

* Why does the Miller get offended or disturbed enough to break the social order and tell the next story? Even the Host says he should wait his turn...

* How might some elements of "The Miller's Tale" be seen as a literal response to "The Knight's Tale"? Is it a satire or a lampoon? 

* What role does Alison play in the tale? How might she compare with the docile and dispirited Emily from the previous tale?

* Why do you think Chaucer wrote such vulgar elements and suggestions into his story considering his audience? Would they have approved of such language?

* How does Chaucer prepare the reader/his audience for this tale? His serious or disingenuous is he being?

* Who gets satirized the most in this tale: the Carpenter, Nicholas, Absalom, or Alison? Or perhaps the Miller himself?