Review of Week 4 (Sept 12, 14)
Review by Anna Stephenson (2:00 class)
This week’s selected readings on Chaucer gave us an overview of all that is known (and subsequently unknown) about Chaucer. The class discussion opened up with questioning the sexism behind Biedler’s statement referring to remarks calling Chaucer the “Father” of English literature as opposed to a more gender neutral term. This opened up thoughts about general society in the 13th century when Chaucer was alive which, as Dr. Seaman pointed out, wasn’t all that bad apart from the Black Plague, The Great Schism, Richard II, and The English Rising (more commonly known as the Peasants’ Revolt). The discussion that followed focused on breaking down the unflattering stigma attached to Medieval times that paints the world as a dark, ignorant, and dirty. Chaucer’s time was culturally vibrant (as we can see with the creation of The Canterbury Tales) although it seems diminished by common belief that the Renaissance was the only time of artistic and intellectual activity. However, there are very few records or surviving evidence of Chaucer, the person. All that is known has come from Indiana Jones-type archival research that while tantalizing, is also ambiguous and somewhat unsatisfying. Here is what we generally know about Chaucer:
- Chaucer was well educated, which is rare considering that Chaucer’s family was not a part of the Aristocracy.
- Chaucer’s father was a wine merchant, which probably means more along the lines of traveling to buy and sell to wine vendors rather than owning a shop that would sold wine. This generated enough money for the family to live a middle working class lifestyle which was an emerging class that was still quite small at the time. This funding most likely facilitated his education and work at court.
- Chaucer was a civil servant and spent time at Court
- Chaucer was accused of Rape, although the exact definition of Rape according to the document is unknown. Rape was also recognized as property theft and abduction in court and the details simply aren’t there in Chaucer’s case. What IS known is that a woman accused Chaucer of Rape and received a large sum of money from Chaucer in a settlement.
- He thought of himself as unattractive, and mocked himself. He is described as “elvish” and “short” in The Canterbury Tales. One of the only pictures of Chaucer illustrates him as a short plump man with TINY legs on an even smaller pony – but the Medieval ages had their own artistic sensibilities that makes it hard to know if such a rendering is accurate.
- He initially intended there to be 120 tales of which only 20 were written(slacker).
- The two manuscripts of The Canterbury Tales that are referenced to day are the Ellesmere and Hengwrt manuscripts. Biedler is using the Hengwrt manuscript for his translation because is has not been edited as much as the Ellesmere manuscript has been.
MLA Handbook – Some Conventions to Keep in mind when writing our summaries or anything else:
- 1” Margins on all sides of the text
- Your name, your professor’s name, the course, and due date should be in the top left of the page
- The header must include the page number and your last name in the top right of the page
- Double space everything! And they mean EVERYTHING!
- Center the Title
- Align your paper to the left
- Good fonts to use are Times New Roman, Helvetica, or Arial typically in size 12 font
- If the author’s name was already mentioned in the sentence, then don’t repeat their name in the parenthetical citation – just put the page numbers. If the name was not previously mentioned, then include the name in the citation.
- When submitting electronically, save your paper as your last name so that you are being courteous your audience – in this case your professor who is in control of your grade. Just somethin’ to think about …
Our MLA handbook is also available online for those “internet-philes” out there.
Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147 – An Exercise in Formalist Analysis:
Shakespeare’s sonnet focuses on the metaphor of the speaker’s love acting as a sickness with reason acting as a doctor offering medical advice that the narrator refuses to follow. The strict regulations of a Shakespearian sonnet outline Shakespeare’s story with a rhyme scheme that consists of three quatrains and a couplet in iambic pentameter. Structure is a big point of interest in Formalist analysis and this one in particular gives a rhythm to the poem when reading it that supports the narrator’s descent into madness. The couplet, which serves as the conclusion of the poem, reveals (somewhat ambiguously) that the narrator is aware of his madness and misjudgment of his love, and yet still falls victim to both her(?) and himself. The interpretation could go either way – the narrator is either aware of his insanity and or his love’s deception of character.
“Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature” – Bressler
One of Bressler’s main points outlined in his essay is that there are many different schools of thought and interpretations of a text, which makes literary criticism a vivacious endeavor. Bressler describes a classroom discussing one of Flannery O’Connor’s works and what the author’s intentions and meaning are with each student representing a different perspective or school of thought (Historical-Biographical, Marxist, Feminist, etc…) in hopes of illustrating the different approaches and their place in literary criticism to the reader. It seems that despite all attempts at a blank state type approach to literary criticism, an audience cannot fully escape their own biases. Bressler encourages identifying the familiar when analyzing so one is fully aware of said biases and can work either through or with them.
“Because the various schools of criticism (and the theories on which they are based) ask different questions about the same work of literature, those theoretical schools provide an abundance of options from which readers can choose to broaden their understanding not only of texts but also their society, their culture, and their own humanity,” (Bressler 11,12)
“Literary theory assumes that there is no such thing as an innocent reading of a text…” (Bressler 17)
“Geoffrey Chaucer is usually considered to be second only to Shakespeare among British writers” (Beidler 3)
“Who is this Geoffery Chaucer?” (Beidler 3)
“Excellent!” – Bill and Ted
Taken from Bressler:
Metatheory – “no one overreaching literary theory that encompasses all possible interpretations of a text suggested by readers”
Hermeneutical principles: “the rules of interpretation”
Hermeneutics of suspicion: “implied assumptions concerning politics, sexuality, religion, linguistics, and a host of other topics”
Hermeneutics of Recovery: uncovering the meaning the author might have intended for their audience at the time of publishing
Literary criticism: “the act of studying, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and enjoying a work of art.”
Review by Stephanie Sacchetta (3:20 class)
Chaucer: Beidler starts his introduction to Chaucer by talking of Shakespeare. He does this to show the readers that we are talking about paramount authors who have had a significant role in English Literature. Although Beidler does not have anything to present to the reader that is concrete, he is telling what one has come to think of Shakespeare. All one has to identify Chaucer are documents that just so happened to be around. In order to figure out who Chaucer is, one must read through literature to try and understand him- which in a sense is unreliable. So, who is this Geoffrey Chaucer? Chaucer’s identity during his time was a public servant. He had a good education because he was well informed of the classics. His father was a wine merchant, in the import/export business and his parents provided him with well nurtured connections. He was accused of rape, yet whether he was guilty or not is not noted, what is noted is that he paid a great sum of money to this woman. Rape then could also be thought of as a type of “abduction”. Yet, as discussed in class this could have been more a scandal and the rape accused against Chaucer COULD have been to save her reputation considering rape was seen as a property theft to the father. But, no one really knows.
His appearance was also a thing of question and not very accurate, though described in the Canterbury Tales one is not sure if he was being serious or not. Chaucer used much self mockery, we know more about how he wants to present himself and what he wants us to think of him.
Through historical events, Beidler shows how Chaucer “deliberately” side stepped tensions and crises happening at the time by his lack of reference to them. If mentioned it was in passing rarely in his works. He was not willing to challenge social structure. Some of the historical events mentioned by Chaucer are Thomas a Becket, whose shrine the pilgrims in Canterbury Tales were going to visit. He also mentions the Black Death, Richard II, the English Rising (Peasants Revolt), and the Great Schism.
The Canterbury Tales was very fragmented and a partial product of what Chaucer intended. He intended to have 120 tales, yet only completed 20. The tales also appear in different groupings and there are 2 authoritative manuscripts esteemed today; the Hengwrt manuscript and the Ellesmere manuscript. The Hengwrt manuscript is the one that Beilder is using because it is in closest form as to what Chaucer would have written, whereas the Ellesmere is a more modern editing of the novel. \
MLA format is the agreed upon way of doing things and everything done are conventions. The conventions in them may seem simple but are easily forgotten:
Margins must be one inch at the top and bottom and on both sides of the text. Be careful because Word Processor makes theirs 1.2, so that must be changed. In the header you must have your last name and the page number-aligned top right. Aligned at the top left of your paper should be your name, your professor’s name, the course, and the date it is due. Everything written is to be double spaced, that includes the title, you name, etc. Title is centered. Start your paper aligned left. The proper etiquette for submitting a paper electronically is with your name as the subject. You must be thinking of your audience when sharing your work. In terms of readability, make sure you are using readable fonts. The conventional font used is Times New Romans 12. Next discussed was Readability and the proper way of citing authors in your text. If one has mention the authors name already in their writing then it is unnecessary to put their name in parenthesis all that is needed are the page numbers. But, if the authors name is not mentioned in your sentence then one must use the author’s last night and the page numbers to specify where their information is coming from. Check out page 216 for a list and examples.
9/14/11 Wednesday Shakespeare’s Sonnet 147
This sonnet suits well for a formalist reading. The forced rhyming of the lines gives off an unhindered madness that Shakespeare was trying to express. Love is a fever that the lover is suffering from, the reason offering medical attention but reason has given up on him. The last 2 lines is Shakespeare saying that the idea of this woman they were sick for was misinterpreted and is not as fair and bright as once seen but rather dark as night. This is paradoxical because there is the possibility of both (ambiguity) since the author is a supposed raving madman, yet he says he is telling the truth. Like said before, this suits well for a formalist reading because of the diction, imagery, symbols, and metaphors used throughout.
In Bressler’s “Defining Criticism, Theory, and Literature” the aim is to make the reader feel welcomed and comfortable to talk about literary theory. Bressler explains to his readers that a text can have more than one meaning. There are different approaches that readers take because of their roots in literary critical approach. The way one approaches a text depends on what was encouraged by their familiar approaches, which are products of contemporary approaches in literature. The way we were brought up with books we have read, teachers, friends, etc. has had an affect on our way of approaching a piece of literature. Bressler thinks that it is helpful to do a reflection on what is familiar to you when analyzing a text so that you can learn to do it more skillfully.
“Geoffrey Chaucer is usually considered to be second only to Shakespeare among British writers” (Beidler)
“To be able to articulate such underlying assumptions about how we read texts enables us, the readers, to establish for ourselves a lucid and logical practical criticism” (Bressler)
“…literature’s chief purpose: telling a story” (Bressler) “Each day seems like a natural fact
And what we think
Changes how we act” (The Theory Toolbox)
Dialogic heteroglossia: “many voices in multiple conversations”, to explain the multiple conversations occurring
Hermeneutical principles: the rules of interpretation
Hermeneutics of suspicion: implied assumptions concerning politics, sexuality, religion, linguistics, and a host of other topics
Literary criticism: the act of studying, analyzing, interpreting, evaluating, and enjoying a work of art.
Practical criticism/applied criticism: applies the theories and tenets of theoretical criticism to a particular work
Metatheory: no one overarching theory that encompasses all possible interactions of a text suggested by its readers.
Theory: set of principles used to explain or make predictions about a particular phenomenon; the generally accepted principles and methods in a given field of study; abstract reasoning or hypothesizing
Preview of week 5 (by Dr. Seaman)
Monday is a ‘busy’ day for us, with Jane Tompkins’ 1985 essay “Masterpiece Theater,” which will be the subject of your first formal writing for the semester. Be sure to bear in mind that this is a version of Tompkins’ essay that excises certain sections, which are described in footnotes at relevant breaks in the essay. Think about these parts when you’re considering the structure of Tompkins’ argument as a whole, since what we’re reading isn’t the original complete version. Also be sure to develop for yourself a detailed understanding of what she is arguing for and how—what it is she’s saying about Hawthorne’s reputation and, based on that one closely-analyzed example, canonical writers and texts generally.
We will also read our first real chapter of Theory Toolbox, this one on the author and authority. It seems the role and influence of the author’s intention has been central to many claims that have been made on the blog, especially, so this should get careful attention from you all. It also is central to Tompkins’ argument.
Wednesday we will read the Wife of Bath’s Prologue. As you read, think about what the Wife’s purpose is in her own argument here, and consider her strategies for pursuing it. Bear in mind that she’s doing to texts (Biblical scripture as well as authoritative interpreters from within the Church hierarchy) what has been done to them by others, in her act of interpretation. Consider what makes this challenging, in Chaucer’s day. Bring to class your sense of what we might be led to make of her and her argument.
Your first formal writing will be due a week from Monday.