English | Chaucer
L612 | 24782 | Lochrie


2:30p  3:45p TR

TOPIC: CHAUCER AND PREMODERN UTOPIA

Utopia as a literary genre and cultural imaginary is said to begin
with Thomas More's book of the same name published in 1516, and yet,
there is evidence in premodern texts, maps, and art of a variety of
utopian spaces and moments that have thus far disappeared under the
Early Modern radar screen.  In this course we will examine some of
Chaucer's works, including his dream visions, some of the Canterbury
Tales, and Troilus and Criseyde, in terms of contemporary theories
of utopia (by Ernest Bloch, Louis Marin, and Frederic Jameson),
Todorov's theory of the fantastic, and various medieval scholars'
work on the category of the "marvelous" and "wonder" in medieval
science, travel literature, and cartography.  We will develop our
own hybrid theory of premodern utopia (since it is still somewhat of
an oxymoron) using contemporary theory in conjunction with medieval
and early modern scholarship of utopia.  Chaucer's early dream
visions, especially the Parliament of Fowles and the House of Fame,
will provide a focus for considering Chaucer's visions of political
and aesthetic utopias, particularly as he uses Macrobius' Commentary
on the Dream of Scipio as a prompt for some of his utopian
premises.  The Canterbury Tales provides a later example of a
distinctly medieval utopian project that uses pilgrimage and the
idea of fellowship as its framing device, and that opens up varied
and heterogeneous sites for utopian thinking in some of its tales.
Chaucer's Troilus wrestles with a nostalgic utopianism based on the
myth of Troy without simply indulging that nostalgia. Requirements
of the course will include some short class presentations and a
final 10-page conference paper, which each student will present to
the class.  Previous acquaintance with Chaucer in Middle English is
always desirable but not required, and the class will spend some
time in the beginning of the semester working with the language to
familiarize students with its sounds and mechanics.