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Research Papers on The Canterbury Tales

Research papers on Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales require someone very familiar with literature of the Middle Ages. The themes within the tales take on various meanings and the symbolism within the tales is rich with satire and political undertones. Get help today with research on Jeffery Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales.

Although composed in the late 14th century, The Canterbury Tales exhibit deeply insightful perception about the various facets of human nature and the entanglements of human relationships. Many of the issues that Chaucer discusses in the tales transcend the parameters of medieval English society and retain their relevance in a contemporary cultural context and are perfect topics for literature research papers.

Some of the more popular tales within Chaucer's work are the following:The Canterbury Tales

  • The Wife of Bath's Tale and Prologue;
  • The Clerk's Tale and Prologue;
  • The Miller's Tale and Prologue;
  • The Merchant's Tale and Prologue;
  • The Knight's Tale and Prologue.

One issue that Chaucer returns to throughout the tales is that of women’s sexuality (like Wife of Bath). Through the narratives of both the male and female pilgrims, Chaucer contrasts the societal norms for acceptable sexual behavior in women with the exploits of the women characters in the tales. Much like today, there is considerable discrepancies between expectations and reality, and Chaucer uses this schism as a rhetorical tool for questioning the logical and ethical basis of the misogynistic social mores that were in place during his era.

Tips for Writing on the Middle Ages

Geoffrey Chaucer frequently displays keen interest in questions of female agency and responsibility by rendering his female characters at key moments in silences, deferred answers, absences, and unexpected submissiveness. The poet’s interest in these moments is not to portray these female figures as merely passive recipients either of the forces that construct women in texts, or of our own critical constructions. Rather, at these crucial junctures where the tale requires (but does not fully enable) us to construct an interpretation, the poet invites us to critically examine the ideological and social assumptions and limitations imposed on those figures and on the act of interpreting them itself. •

Select three female characters whose agency, or lack of, hinges on measured or protracted silences and explore the following themes:

  1. Are those silences indicative of personal moral strength (even virtue) in the face of adversity or a stark indication of the kinds of abuses endured by women and other subjects in social circumstances where male rule is the only legitimate authority?
  2. What role does gesture play in these silences?
  3. Is it possible for both men and women to rise up to their moral potential?
  4. Does gender or marriage complicate things for those who try?

The following criteria will be taken into consideration in evaluating your paper:

  • The clarity of your argument in the introduction and throughout the paper
  • The analysis and discussion of your thesis and the ideas you introduce as supporting evidence
  • Your facility with language, especially the analysis and relation of your ideas to the topic
  • Your effective use of secondary sources
  • Your facility with grammar and the conventions of critical writing
  • The effectiveness and depth of you argument overall—its introduction, development, analysis, argumentation, and conclusion

Read through the themes. Is there one that piques your interest? Do some thinking about how the theme might be expressed in the text. Write down your ideas as they come to you. Don't neglect secondary characters. While there is a tendency to focus more on the central characters, looking at all the characters will provide more interesting analysis. Example of how to Generate Ideas I'm always intrigued by the character of Error. She reminds me of the image of the Pelican that Queen Elizabeth sometimes uses to demonstrate maternal love for her subjects. (The pelican was supposed to have pricked its own breast until she bled to feed her offspring.) When I look at the above themes, there are a few that seem relevant:

  1. Truth
  2. Desire
  3. Madness

When I add the Redcrosse Knight into the equation, I could also use "battling evil." When I think of what kind of evil she represents, she seems to epitomize madness, so the two themes overlap. Now that I've done some preliminary thinking on the subject, it's a good time to go back to the text and reread that section. I've reread the section, and it strikes me now that the Redcrosse Knight's mistake is that he's too trusting. He ignores the good advice given to him, which leads him into the Cave of Error. So, I'm going to shift my focus to a thematic analysis of "Choices." Thesis statement: Analysis of the scene in Spenser's Faerie Queene in which the Redcrosse Knight encounters Error suggests that choices based in innocence can be dangerous, but choices based on knowledge can be empowering.

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