Module QXE-3080:
Chaucer: Comedy, Calamity and

Module Facts

Run by School of Languages, Literatures and Linguistics.

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Dr Sue Niebrzydowski

Overall aims and purpose

  1. To introduce students to a range of Chaucer’s works.

  2. To study the relationship of these texts to their historical and cultural contexts.

  3. To analyse Chaucerian works of different genres.

  4. To introduce students to the range of critical opinion concerning Chaucer’s works and enable participation in the ongoing critical discussion of these texts.

Course content

This module provides an opportunity to examine a range of works by Geoffrey Chaucer, one of the most interesting and important authors of late medieval English literature whose writing is famous for its comedy, and the calamities that befall many of his characters. Through an analysis of the Canterbury Tales alongside The House of Fame, The Book of the Duchess, Troilus and Criseyde, and selections from the Legend of Good Women, Chaucer’s literary accomplishments will be examined with the aim of understanding his creativity, and his place in the English canon. During the seminars there will by opportunity to explore the wide range of themes and motifs employed in Chaucer’s works, as well as his extraordinary versatility in tackling different literary genres. Students will also engage with a diversity of theoretical and critical approaches to Chaucer’s work and modern adaptations of his texts, reflecting this medieval author’s continued appeal in the modern world. This module is an ideal companion to any of the other level three medieval literature modules.

Assessment Criteria


Typically, work graded A- to A** (or 70 to 100) will show many of the following qualities:

• Discusses ideas with confidence and precision • Demonstrates maturity and sophistication • Displays deep knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is totally relevant • Shows independent, analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of substantial and relevant reading • Shows great accuracy in expression, displaying total mastery over all aspects of the language • Shows occasional signs of brilliance and originality of thought • In creative work: displays considerable originality • Command over medium; may have potential for publication/production


Typically, work graded D- to D+ (or 40 to 49) will show many of the following qualities: • Unsure and lacking in confidence when discussing ideas • Referring to the subject in question in a superficial manner • Making an effort to provide fairly balanced answers • Some points in the argument irrelevant to the topic • Little evidence of background reading • Some uncertainty over language and syntax • Strengths and weaknesses fairly balanced; occasionally clumsy and unimaginative • In creative work: superficial • Not succeeding in mastering the requirements of the medium


Typically, work graded B- to B+ (or 60 to 69) will show many of the following qualities: • Discusses ideas adeptly • Most of the arguments about a specific field are well-aired • Displays knowledge of the subject in question; the answer is relevant • Shows analytical and clear thought • Gives evidence of relevant reading • Shows accuracy in expression with mastery over language. • A few minor errors here and there. • Signs of creative thought deserve a higher position within the class • In creative work: shows signs of originality, having understood the requirements of the medium • Plans of well-balanced and full answers, despite some gaps

Learning outcomes

  1. have an informed sense of the overall development of Chaucerian verse and its complexities.

  2. Have a detailed knowledge of a significant selection of Chaucer’s major works.

  3. analyse and evaluate the literary quality of these works

  4. The ability to situate these works in their various socio-historical contexts.

  5. Posses an informed knowledge of a range of differing interpretations of these works which are then applied, as appropriate, to the student’s own assessment of Chaucer’s work.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
ESSAY Second Essay 50
ESSAY First essay 50

Teaching and Learning Strategy


One two-hour seminar per week for 11 weeks One one-hour study group per week for 11 weeks

External visit

Students will be taken on a visit to the National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, to see the original Chaucerian manuscripts housed there.

Private study

During your private study, students will be expected to read the primary texts and relevant secondary critical works.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others

Subject specific skills

  • Awareness of how different social and cultural contexts affect the nature of language and meaning (English Benchmark Statement 2.1; 2.2; 3.1.3; 3.1.7; 3.1.11; 3.2.8).
  • Command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology (English Benchmark Statement 3.1.9; 3.2.6).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis and the ability to acquire substantial quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of the distinctive interpretative skills of the subject (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.2; 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.3.3; 3.3.5; 3.3.8; 3.3.12; 3.3.13).
  • Rhetorical skills of effective communication and argument, both oral and written (English Benchmark Statement 2.3; 3.1.10; 3.2.5; 3.3.1; 3.3.6).
  • The ability to work with and in relationship to others through the presentation of ideas and information and the collective negotiation of solutions (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.9; 3.3.10).
  • Sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects upon communication of circumstances, authorship, textual production and intended audience (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.8; 2.3.; 3.1.2; 3.2.3).
  • Critical Skills in the close reading, description, reasoning and analysis of texts (English Benchmark Statement 1.3.6; 1.3.9; 2.1; 2.3; 3.2.1; 3.3.1; 3.2.1; 3.3.8; 3.3.12).
  • Competence in the planning and execution of essays, presentations and other writing and project work (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.6).
  • Conceptual skills developed by demonstration and discussion. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.2; 3.3.14; 3.3.17; 3.3.18; 3.3.19).
  • Study skills in researching concepts and contexts by directed reading. (English Benchmark Statement 3.3.22; 3.3.23).
  • The ability to express ideas clearly in discussion and in organised written form. (English Benchmark Statement 3.2.5; 3.2.7; 3.3.11; 3.3.15; 3.3.16; 3.3.21; 3.3.24).
  • The ability to analyse texts, using appropriate critical terminology. ( English Benchmark Statement 3.1.8; 3.2.1; 3.2.6; 3.3.12).
  • Translation skills (Middle English).


Resource implications for students

Students are required to purchase only one volume for this module: The Riverside edition of the Complete Works of Chaucer.

Talis Reading list

Courses including this module

Optional in courses: