Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Call for Contributors and Collaboration: The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales

Posted by the OACCT Editorial Collective:
Candace Barrington, Brantley L. Bryant, Richard H. Godden, Daniel T. Kline, and Myra Seaman

The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales seeks writers for short essay chapters of 3,000 words and longer reference chapters of 4,000 words. Please submit a short statement of interest by January 31st, 2016 to Rough drafts will be due in Mid-April 2016 for a crowd-sourced review. Since the turn around time is relatively short, we especially seek writers who are already working on projects related to the needed chapters or who have researched those topics before. The OA Companion is also seeking scholars interested in contributing to this project as reviewers, proofreaders, and web-design specialists.

This is, we hope, a radically innovative enterprise and a new way of making a scholarly resource. The goal of the *OA Companion* is to put together a high-quality companion volume supporting first-time readers of the Canterbury Tales, and to provide it in an open-access downloadable format that's free to all. When completed, the *OA Companion* will be made available online under a creative commons license. The *OA Companion* is intended for a global audience of English readers from a wide variety of institutions (or extra-institutional locations), and it features editorial principles and set chapter formats that blend scholarly precision with pedagogical adaptability. It's a project that aims to go forward in a new way, directly from scholars to the public. We are not working through a traditional press or university structure. To be up front, this means that there will be no official university press to mention in one's CV, but it also means that work for this project might potentially connect with many, many new readers of Chaucer. The *OA Companion* project is improvisatory and exploratory. To bring something like this to fruition, the current team needs as much labor, expertise, and goodwill as the medievalist community is able to spare.

We invite scholars with an interest in Chaucer and the late Middle Ages to write for the project, joining a team of more than sixteen other scholars and critics who have already agreed to contribute material. The Open Access companion is moving forward, and we are issuing this CFP to find contributors for the remaining necessary essay and reference chapters. We also hope to connect with scholars interested in helping with the logistical and pragmatic aspects of the project.

If you are interested in learning more about the project, please see the “Information for Contributors” document, included later in this post.

1. Essay Chapters

The OA Companion needs writers for the following essay chapters. Each essay chapter pairs one section of The Canterbury Tales with a topic of wide general interest. Each chapter must follow a set three-part "tool/text/transformation" format detailed in the “Information for Contributors” document. First, the chapter should offer a reader a tool for interpreting the text (a critical concept, important piece of historical context, and so forth), then the chapter should engage in an open-ended analysis of the text, and finally, at the end, it should briefly offer some questions, project ideas, or other prompts to allow the readers to further engage with this text and topic (to effect a transformation). Writers of essay chapters will be asked to keep in mind the project's editorial principles and the overall goal of accessibility to a broad audience of first-time readers of the Tales.

The following text & topic combinations are available:

--Text: The General Prologue and Topic: Cultural Crossings, Conflicts, and Collaborations
--Text: The Summoner’s Tale and Topic: Protest, Complaint, and Uprising
--Text: The Merchant’s Tale and Topic: Environment, Landscape, and Nature
--Text: The Pardoner’s Tale and Topic: The Body and Its Politics
--Text: The Shipman’s Tale and Topic: Interpretation, Deciphering, Coding, and Confusion
--Text: The Tale of Sir Thopas and Topic: Imagining the World in Maps and Stories
--Text: The Tale of Melibee and Topic: Local Government: Power, Lordship, and Resources
--Text: The Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and Topic: Invention, Discovery, Problem-Solving, and Innovation
--Text: The Manciple’s Tale and Topic: Creating Gender and Sexual Identities
--Text: The Parson’s Tale and Topic: Religious Devotion and Spiritual Feeling
--Text: The Retraction and Topic: Comment, Argument, Debate, and Polemic

Reference Chapters

The OA companion also needs writers for the following reference chapters. These chapters should clearly and engagingly present key aspects of these large topics to readers who are new to medieval English literature. Writers of reference chapters will be asked to keep in mind the project's editorial principles and the overall goal of accessibility to a broad audience of first-time readers of the Tales.

• Society and Politics in England, c. 1340-1400
• Late Medieval England in a Global Context
• Introduction to Medieval Studies / What Does it Mean to Read a Text from Medieval England?

General Assistance

Interested in helping but don't have a chapter to contribute? We invite any and all interested parties to join this project. We welcome you to help in any way that you can. We especially need scholars with experience in online publication and web design to contribute their expertise as we sort out the logistics of the final product. Please be in touch at any time at

Mission Statement and Project Guidelines are appended below.

An Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales

Information for Contributors

The OACCT Editorial Collective:
Candace Barrington, Brantley L. Bryant, Richard H. Godden,
Daniel T. Kline, Myra Seaman

This document serves as a mission statement for this project and contains guidelines for current or potential writers.

Contents at a glance:
• The Goals of the Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales
• What the Open Access Companion Looks Like
• Editorial Principles
• Essay Chapter Format
• Essay Chapter Topics List
• Reference Chapter Topics List

The Goals of the Open Access Companion to The Canterbury Tales

1) The Open Access Companion to the Canterbury Tales supports readers encountering The Canterbury Tales for the first time. The intended audience includes solitary readers as well as readers in a class or reading group. The OA Companion is addressed to readers in a wide variety of geographical and institutional contexts. While the OA Companion is intended for an audience with little familiarity with medieval British literature or literary theory, it assumes its readers are interested in academic inquiry, deep reading, creative adaptation, historical exploration, and active scholarly engagement. Instructors, students, and other readers can easily use and share the OA Companion at no cost.

2) The OA Companion project takes the concept of open access broadly, thoroughly, and seriously as a central goal:
-The OA Companion is free of charge.
-The OA Companion is written with a global audience (reading in English) in mind.
-The OA Companion assumes little or no prior knowledge in theory, medieval history, or literary history.
-The OA Companion is intended for students at a wide variety of institutions as well as those reading outside of formal academic contexts.
-The OA Companion is made available in an accessible format compatible with the widest variety of devices, screen sizes, readers, software, hardware, and printing/reproduction resources possible.
-The OA Companion is created with the goal of opening access to the Tales themselves, creating original and dynamic connections between past and present.
3) The OA Companion connects the most important and exciting current scholarship (in theoretical approaches, historical work, interpretation, manuscript studies, and other specializations) with a new generation of students and readers.

4) The OA Companion provokes cross-temporal, comparative, and emerging interpretations of the tales, encouraging new analyses that show how medieval texts like The Canterbury Tales can speak urgently to the interests, concerns, desires, nightmares, fears, and fantasies of our shared world.

5) The OA Companion further energizes the study of premodern literature by making a high-quality companion volume available to a wide audience at no cost.

6) On a larger scale, The OA Companion project explores how working outside of traditional publishing frameworks can open up different ways of reaching an audience and shaping a book, methods governed by the needs of the field and readers – not the needs of the market.

What the Open Access Companion Looks Like:

Certain logistical aspects of this project will remain in development as the contributors are writing. The project will develop in response to the input of all involved and the circumstances and opportunities that arise during its creation. The three most open-ended aspects of the project are the specifics of: 1) the website used to house the OA Companion (hosting, format, maintenance), 2) the file formats and distribution methods used for the OA Companion, and 3) the legal licenses used for the materials in the OA companion. Other variables include the possible role of review or crowdsourcing by focus groups of students and instructors and also the potential for supplementary/interactive elements on the website.

No matter what the precise details of these underlying structures and the process of distribution, however, the end result of the project will match the following core principles:

--The project is expressly non-commercial. Its goal is to provide the broadest access possible to high-quality, thought-provoking, and useful accompanying material for reading, teaching, and group or individual study of the Canterbury Tales.  

--The main goal of the project is to produce a virtual "volume" of interrelated and loosely-connected chapters that inform, interest, teach, and provoke. Some chapters will be essay chapters that discuss one tale in relation to one topic, while other chapters will be reference chapters that introduce readers to broad contexts. This volume will exist virtually as a collection of distributable texts (the essay and reference chapters), which can be downloaded, read, printed, and distributed in a variety of methods depending on the needs of users. The volume will be modular, allowing users to download it in part, in whole, or in user-arranged segments to fit different needs, interests, and pedagogies. The volume will be made available on one central, curated website.

--The core of the OA Companion’s virtual volume is a series of approximately 26 essay chapters and a smaller number (5-7, depending) of reference chapters:

Each 3,000 word essay chapter will examine a broad topical focus in relation to one major “text” within the Tales (26 possible: General Prologue, Knight, Miller, Reeve, Cook, Man of Law, Wife of Bath, Friar, Summoner, Clerk, Merchant, Squire, Franklin, Physician, Pardoner, Shipman, Prioress, Thopas, Melibee, Monk, Nun’s Priest, Second Nun, Canon’s Yeoman, Manciple, Parson, Retraction). The essay chapters will have as their titles a key word or phrase that relates to broadly shared interests or concerns (for example, "Language Politics and Translation: The Second Nun's Tale"). The essay chapters are designed to be read modularly, in any sequence. Each chapter has a set, three-part format (see Essay Chapter Format below). The editorial collective will loosely coordinate the short chapters and their topics to avoid unproductive overlap, although the precise contours of each chapter will be left up to the writer. A list of Essay Chapter Topics is provided below.

Each 3,000-4,000 word reference chapter will provide broad contextual information for first-time readers. See the list of Reference Chapter Topics below.

--All core materials (essay chapters and reference chapters) will be designed for online or offline reading. Materials will be easily downloadable. All essay and reference chapters may contain unobtrusive hyperlinks (available to add depth but not necessary for comprehension of the main text), so that chapters can be circulated in copies/print or read offline.

--The publication format will allow for modular arrangement. Material will be able to be read or downloaded in one continuous volume, individually, or in user-designed groupings.

Beyond the First Season

-- The project's first and most important goal is to create the volume described above, containing at least one essay chapter for each Canterbury Tale and a few key reference chapters. The resulting selection will depend on the decisions of the writers and contributors who are willing to join the project. While the initial volume will be an achievement and a useful resource in itself, there are also additional and exciting possibilities for continued future expansion.

--More material could be added. After the initial virtual volume is created (one essay chapter for each tale plus several reference chapters), new “seasons” of material could be released, both in the form of additional essay or reference chapters and also in the form of different genres of text (short provocative readings, brief discussions of key concepts, fictional or poetic responses, and so forth). The editorial collective will agree upon a set schedule for opt-in additions or revisions that will be announced in advance, so that the site will not be constantly or confusingly in flux. For example, the next set of additions might be scheduled for three years after the online publication of the initial volume.

--In addition to the volume itself, a hosting website could include additional, specifically on-line resources. The nature and function of these resources will depend on the individuals willing to join the project and add their expertise and assistance. Possible additional resources could include:
-Curated link lists
-Videos or podcasts (pedagogical, performative, etc.)
-Reference lists or glossaries: theoretical terms, medieval terms, other works (perhaps with quiz or study functions)
            -Forums for commentary and discussion
-Forums for posting creative and adaptational works
-Potentially, such a site could become a virtual community or gathering-place and a staging area for future projects…

Editorial Principles

In order to fulfill the Open Access Companion’s goals, writers are encouraged to keep the following principles in mind when preparing materials.

1. Accessibility: Companion chapters should be written to be as accessible as possible to as broad an audience of English readers as possible. To that end, companion chapters will:
-Assume minimal prior knowledge of theory, literary criticism, medieval history, medieval literature, popular culture, or Chaucer studies. When possible, terms should be contextualized, explained, and introduced with care.
-Be written in a style that emphasizes clarity and reader engagement.
-Clearly and intentionally imagine an audience with a wide and intersecting variety of cis/trans, class, cultural, disability/ability, ethnic, gender, linguistic, national, racial, religious, and sexual identities.

2. Critical canonicity: Companion chapters should consider the issue of authorial canonicity in a critical way.

3. Allow Readers An Active Role: Companion chapters should aim to provide the audience with resources for understanding (such as historical contextualizations, theoretical concepts, and sample interpretations), while provoking an open-ended engagement.  To express this point humorously: any student trying to plagiarize from these chapters should still need to do a lot of thinking and writing to have a coherent paper or argument.

4. Outward Focused: Companion chapters should imagine the connections that can be made between the advanced study of medieval literature and other pursuits. While containing depth, they should not aim to transform readers into career Chaucerians. Companion chapters should enable readers to make active comparisons between the age of Chaucer and our own. Such comparisons, however, should be made indirectly and with considerable nuance, avoiding heavy-handed moralizations or pre-packaged interpretations. Companion chapters should suggest relations to contemporary issues and problems without “leading the witness” (first, to encourage independent thinking among a diverse audience; second, because specific references will become dated very quickly; third, because the goal is the emergence of unexpected new knowledges and not the replication of dogma). Companion chapters should aim to help foster and sustain an engaged, searching, and questioning relationship between readers, the text, and the world.

5. Wear Scholarship Lightly: Companion chapters should acknowledge critical history and the achievements of previous scholars, but should not aim to provide a history of the field. Companion chapters should avoid summaries of previous critical opinion. Chapters should take care to use the best insights from scholarship but to create an experience in which readers feel the possibilities rather than the professional obligations of the push and pull of scholarly research.

Essay Chapter Format:

In order to help address core goals, to provide readers with a consistent experience, and to foster a distinctive identity for this volume, every interpretive essay chapter will use a standard three-part format. Chapters may include a brief introduction of the tale and/or the major issue under discussion, then will be made up of of three parts: TOOLS, TEXT, & TRANSFORMATION. The “Tools” and “Text” sections will make up the bulk of the chapter, with the “Transformation” section taking up a smaller amount of space at the end. [Note that the more directly informative reference chapters do not need to adopt this format.]

~Tools: Goal: give readers ideas, concepts, or contexts for their own interpretation. The "tools" section of the chapter provides readers with some key information about the topic considered in the chapter. The chapter might also present them with a manageable amount of historical, theoretical, or scholarly concepts, tools, methods, or techniques. The goal here is to provide readers with the material for making their own interpretations and engaging in discussions.

~Text: Goal: Model engagement with the tale and offer various avenues of examination. This part of the chapter performs a reading of the given text in relation to the larger topic of the chapter. The readings or interpretations provided in this section should aim for relative open-endedness, provocation, and use of multiple perspectives rather than striving to create definitive, magisterial arguments.

~Transformation: Goal: Provide material for further group or solo exploration, thinking, discussion, and adaptation of the Tale and the chapter's ideas. This shorter section will include a list of questions or projects for the reader. The questions could bring in connections to other tales, invite further application or questioning of the concepts discussed, or suggest writing projects, exercises, and explorations. These questions could be used either in a class, in a reading group, or by an individual reader. The transformation section will also include a suggested reading section. Suggested readings will include a variety of works, including related texts, theoretical works, adaptations, and present-day analogues, as well as key scholarly references. Contributors who have any difficulties creating this section can receive ideas and assistance from the Editorial Collective. [For some models, consider the study questions in Dan Kline's Medieval British Literature Handbook.]

Essay Chapter Topics List:

Below is the list of chapter titles/topics initially proposed for OA Companion essay chapters. As of January 2016, many of these topics are already taken; please see the current CFP for available tales & topics. The complete list is nevertheless provided here to show the intended general shape and scope of the project.

This list of topics is designed to avoid excessive overlap (as much as reasonably possible) with pre-existing companion resources and also to address the OA Companion’s goal of speaking to a global, twenty-first century audience. As much as possible, topics are potentially trans-historical (“touching” both the time of the Tales and our own), outward-directed (attuned to general interest and not scholarly industry), and yet also congruent with some recent interests and broad preoccupations in the humanities. In short, these are designed to be engaging, important, fun, or all three. Topics that are not addressed in the first "virtual volume" of essays could provide the topics for further essays in the future.

Authority: Familial, Political, Written
Brotherhood, Sisterhood, Friendship, and Fellowship
Clothes, Dress, Status, and Identity
Colony, Empire, and Conquest
Comment, Argument, Debate, and Polemic
Creating Gendered and Sexual Identities
Cultural Crossings, Conflicts, and Collaborations
Dance, Drama, Performance, Music, and Beauty
Death, Disease, Illness, and Mortality
Education, Literacy, Law, and Privilege
Emotion, Feeling, Intensity, Pleasure
Entertainment versus Education
Fantasy, Imagination, Dreams, and Illusions
Feminism and Women’s Experience
Hatred, War, and Murder
Imagining the World: Maps and Stories
Interpretation, Deciphering, Coding, and Confusion
Invention, Discovery, Problem-Solving, and Innovation
Jokes, Jests, Pranks, and Play
Environment, Landscape, Nature
Language Politics and Translation
Local Government: Power, Lordship, and Resources
Love, Courtship, Marriage, and Extended Family
Objects, Things, Devices, Gadgets
Pregnancy and Childbirth
Protest, Complaint, and Uprising
Race and Racism
Relating to the Past, Imagining the Past, Using the Past
Religious Devotion and Spiritual Feeling
Religious Identity, Difference, and Debate
Sexuality and Intimacy
Subsistence: Farming, Agriculture, Food
The Body and its Politics
Travel, Transit, and Journeys
Trends and Trendiness
Wages, Work, Wealth, and Economic Inequality
Water: Ocean, Rain, River, Reservoir
Weather, Extreme Weather, Elements, Climate
Youth and Age

Reference Chapter Topics List:

3,000-4,000 word reference chapters will be designed to introduce key contexts for understanding the Canterbury Tales. Although it would be impossible to give a “complete” or “comprehensive” list, the following would be useful potential topics for reference chapters. The initial volume will ideally have between five to seven of these.

~Society and Politics in England c. 1340-1400
~Late Medieval England in a Global Context
~The Life of Geoffrey Chaucer
~Chaucer’s Middle English: An Introduction and List of Resources
~The Genres of Medieval Literature in the Canterbury Tales
~The Sources of the Canterbury Tales
~Manuscripts and the Production of the Canterbury Tales
~Global reception of the Canterbury Tales c. 2015
~What does “medieval” mean? What does it mean to read a text from late Medieval England?

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