Literature in a Changing World 1

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Course Description

  • Course Name

    Literature in a Changing World 1

  • Host University

    Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

  • Location

    Amsterdam, The Netherlands

  • Area of Study

    Literature, Research

  • Language Level

    Taught In English

  • Prerequisites

     "Literature, Culture, and Society" and "Genre and Literary Analysis."

  • Course Level Recommendations


    ISA offers course level recommendations in an effort to facilitate the determination of course levels by credential evaluators.We advice each institution to have their own credentials evaluator make the final decision regrading course levels.

    Hours & Credits

  • ECTS Credits

  • Recommended U.S. Semester Credits
  • Recommended U.S. Quarter Units
  • Overview

    This course aims to (1) familiarise students with the multiple voices and layers in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, the most influential masterpiece of English medieval literary history; (2) relate this literary text to the social and political (European) contexts in which it was written and diffused; (3) train students in analysing and using secondary sources representing various theoretical approaches.

    Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, narrated by a highly heterogeneous group of not so devout pilgrims, are generally considered to be an important landmark in the formation of the idea of 'Englishness' and nationhood - against the French cultural hegemony since the Norman Conquest.

    In this course, we will read and critically analyse a selection of the multi-layered prologues and tales contained in this 'estates satire' by the 'Father of English poetry'. For a more diverse audience than ever before witnessed in European literature, he celebrates 'difference' and plurality, and juxtaposes things sacred and profane, low and high genres and classes - all to be explored and examined before one might be able to draw any conclusion at all. Inspired by his illustrious French and Italian predecessors (Jean de Meun in the Roman de la Rose, Dante in the Commedia and Boccaccio in the Decamerone), Chaucer daringly challenges various authorities and universal truths in vernacular English. He raises significant questions and moral issues which students are invited to compare to our current world of globalisation and (anti-)European and nationalist tendencies.

    Our explorations will include scholarly work on Chaucer's reworking of famous sources, interpretations inspired by new theoretical approaches (new historicism, postcolonialism, gender and queer studies), as well as modern remediations of The Canterbury Tales on screen (Pasolini, recent re-workings of tales for the BBC).


    Active participation (includes preparation of weekly written and oral assignments): 60%; final essay: 40%. In order to pass the course, students need a pass grade (5.5 or higher) for their essay as well as for their average grade.

    Students should be aware that the level of theoretical reflection in this course is accordingly high.

Course Disclaimer

Courses and course hours of instruction are subject to change.

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