The Senior Seminar of which I was a part for the Spring 2016 semester entitled Chaucer’s Women discussed views and constructions of women in Geoffrey Chaucer’s poetry from a variety of angles, as women’s lives, experiences, and opinions figure prominently in Chaucer’s work. Under consideration was how Chaucer’s female characters uphold or critique late medieval assumptions about sex, gender, and status. The course also discussed Chaucer’s poetic engagements with legendary and contemporary women and with stereotypes (both positive and negative) about women.
Primary readings for the course included selections from the Canterbury Tales and the whole of Troilus and Criseyde in their original Middle English forms. Medievalist Carolyn Dinshaw’s literary study Chaucer’s Sexual Poetics served as an important critical guide in these investigations. As someone interested in both Feminist Literary Theory and the behavior of language in literature, understanding and analyzing the duality of Middle English words in the guise of “male vs. female” literary activity was a unconventional take on a classic, conventional set of texts.
These personal interests led to the creation of the attached Senior Seminar thesis, which may be viewed as the culminating work of an English major. This particular course posed a welcome challenge, as it served as an introduction to Middle English and furthered a pre- established understanding of male/ females roles within a Medieval Romance.