by J J Cohen
Last year I mentioned in passing a course I'd newly designed called Myths of Britain. I'll be teaching the class again come spring, this time with ninety students and three TAs (the course is as much about mentoring graduate student teachers as it is about developing critical thinking through writing among undergraduates). So, considering the theme, I thought I might introduce some Chaucer this time ... and here is my question. If you've ever taught a Brit Lit survey, do you keep the Chaucer in Middle English (a la the Norton anthology) or do you utilize a snappy translation into Modern English? If so, what translation do you use?
My students will mostly be sophomores; most will not be English majors (though experience proves the class can cause sudden conversions). We want to challenge them, of course -- but I also worry that if we do Chaucer for only one or two weeks, and do him in Middle English, the students will be too wrapped up in just getting the langauge that they won't move to themes and analysis -- as they do, say, with our excellent translations of Beowulf, Marie de France, and SGGK.
What do you think?