by J J Cohen
So after a lull in teaching Chaucer, I'm back at it come spring 2011: an undergraduate course on the Canterbury Tales
. In the past I've used the paperback edition of the Riverside Chaucer
, but I'm wondering: has anyone used another edition they'd recommend more highly? Maybe something with better glosses? I'm thinking the Jill Mann edition that Penguin published a few years back
. Have you had experience with this text in the classroom, or would you recommend something different? All my notes are in my ancient Riverside ... which means it is time to start fresh.
I like the Broadview Canterbury Tales - more manageable and much cheaper than the Riverside. For fourth-years and grad students I want the Riverside, but for second- or third- years the Broadview is great. The Norton is okay but doesn't include all the Tales which is frustrating.
When I've used Mann, students have had more trouble finding and using the notes than with the Riverside; perhaps it is my fault for not introducing the book thoroughly enough. I've used Mann (and he unobjectionable Broadview edition) in medieval classes that did not focus primarily on Chaucer, making the price of the Riverside harder to justify.
I have used the Riverside and the Norton Critical, but I was considering the Fisher/Allen Complete Canterbury Tales. I am not sure what (if any) criticisms exist, but I always liked John Fisher's Complete Works and this new paperback version of just the Tales has both glosses and brief explanatory notes below the text on each page (much easier than the constant flipping back and forth with the Riverside). This text includes a pretty thick bibliography in the back and a quick pronunciation guide inside the back cover (again, pretty convenient for undergraduates).
I've been using Fisher and Allen. The glosses aren't SO convenient, and I don't always agree with their punctuation, but I like that the explanatory notes and glosses are on the same page. I also think the 1600+ selected bibliography in the back is useful.
That said, I'm thinking of switching to the Norton next time for the contextual material (eg, providing students with at least some of Against Jovinian makes the logic and techniques of the Wife of Bath's prologue much clearer).
I also like the Broadview CT and I'm using it this year (for the first time) alongside the Companion to Chaucer (ed. L. Amtower & J. Vanhoutte), also published by Broadview. Broadview packages them together for less than one Riverside. Also, they weigh less than one Riverside. I'd agree with Kathy that for undergrads especially, the Broadview edition works well, has some contextual material (incl. Against Jovinian) in appendices, and glosses & notes on the same page.
Saint Mary's University
Broadview Canterbury is based on Ellesmere, so it's a nice look at how one MS does it. In addition, Broadview has a companion to Chaucer and his Contemporaries that does a lot of the contextual set up thematically but with excerpts from original documents. It's been pretty good so far.
Do NOT use anything new. My old Riverside was falling to bits so i bought a new copy. And then got lambasted publicly in front of the entire NCS by one of Stephanie's students for doing so.
Stick to the old dog-eared copy, the chewed pen, the frayed gown, the stoop and the unwashed hair. You will appear so much more genuinely medieval and academic to your students.
I can handle all of these mandates except the unwashed hair, Sarah. Stunning coiffure makes the medievalist great.
I am posting this comment on behalf of the *real* Geoffrey Chaucer, not to be confused with the rube Brantley Bryant of "Geoffrey Chaucer Hath a Blog." Mr Chaucer, who simply goes by Geoff [and who, I might add, lives in a Georgian townhouse in the West End of London and speaks modern English as any sane gentleman would these days], recommends that everyone stick with The Riverside Chaucer, whether for graduate or undergraduate students, mainly because of how much it weighs. Geoff sees the weight of The Riverside Chaucer as directly proportional to his canonical reputation and to his royalties. He would also like to point out that the only scholar who ever *really* understood the Wife of Bath was George Kittredge.
There's also a version of the Riverside in PB which is just the Canterbury Tales--and geared towards undergraduates. 0-395-97823-8, if you want to look it up on Amazon. Old, but in a helpful version.
I work with a professor who uses an edition edited by Robert Boenig and Andrew Taylor. It is an edited edition of the Ellesmere manuscript. I know that doesn't offer the comprehensiveness of the Riverside, but the glosses are nice and, after observing his class, it directly introduces the students to editorial practices in relation to CT manuscripts and leads to conversations about authorship and editorialization.
As a student, I have used Jill Mann's translation and really enjoyed it. Besides being affordable, it is a nice introduction for undergraduates to the language and text. there is a lot to like.
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