Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: Text and Context


Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is the poet's last major work and can be seen as a culmination of his poetic art. We shall read selections from the Tales in the late fourteenth-century context in which they were written, considering aspects of Chaucer's experimental narration, poetics, and his engagement with contemporary French and Italian literature. Beyond this, we shall look at Chaucer's readership during his lifetime; how and why this changed over the following centuries. The figure of Chaucer himself in popular consciousness also undergoes a number of shifts. Chaucer would not necessarily recognise his nineteenth century self.

The course will encourage a close reading of the texts, with the help of modern English translations, and discussion of Chaucer's techniques. This will be balanced with a more general exposition of literary and cultural shifts over the centuries in order to explore the reasons why the story collection continues to be relevant.

Programme details

Courses starts: 16 April 2024

Week 0: Course Orientation

Week 1: Chaucer in context and the 'prologues' to the Canterbury Tales

Week 2: The Knight's Tale and The Miller's Tale

Week 3: The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale

Week 4: The Tale of Sir Thopas

Week 5: The Pardoner's Tale

Week 6: The Manciple's Tale

Week 7: Chaucer and Caxton

Week 8: Chaucer and the Tudors

Week 9: Chaucer in the Nineteenth Century

Week 10: Chaucer's 'congeniality'

Digital Certification

To complete the course and receive a certificate, you will be required to attend and participate in at least 80% of the live sessions on the course and pass your final assignment. Upon successful completion, you will receive a link to download a University of Oxford digital certificate. Information on how to access this digital certificate will be emailed to you after the end of the course. The certificate will show your name, the course title and the dates of the course you attended. You will be able to download your certificate or share it on social media if you choose to do so.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Victoria Condie

Victoria Condie has taught courses in medieval and Old English literature for OUDCE and currently teaches medieval language and literature at the University of Cambridge.

Course aims

To introduce students to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in their cultural and literary contexts from the late fourteenth century to the nineteenth century.

Course Objectives:

  • To read and analyse the chosen texts in translation but with reference to the original language.
  • To evaluate the reasons for the continuing significance of the collection.
  • To consider the reasons for the changing response to Chaucer and his work from the fourteenth to the nineteenth centuries.

Teaching methods

Ten hours of pre-recorded lectures concentrating on background and context. Ten live sessions, each one linked to one of the recordings. The live sessions will concentrate on close reading of extracts from the texts which students will have received as part of their course materials. Live sessions will also be used for active discussion not just of the course materials but also of the recorded lecture for that week.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • read and analyse the selected texts in terms of their meanings;
  • think about the cultural and literary development of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales;
  • understand the continuing significance of the Canterbury Tales.

Assessment methods

Students will have a choice of assignment. Option A will be to write a short piece of around 500 words outlining the nature of the topic they will write on at the end of the course. This will take the form of an essay of around 1,500 words on a topic either suggested by the tutor or of the student's own devising but this must be agreed in advance. Option B will be a close reading exercise based on five extracts of text, each piece to be around 250 words in length and one to be submitted halfway through the course. 

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)