Prologue of the Wife of Bath’s Tale by Geoffrey Chaucer & The Tempest by William ShakespeareTrying to read Middle English in Chaucer’s Prologue of the Wife of Bath’s Tale was like trying to read another language. Reading aloud helped make the meaning clearer, however I still struggled. It’s interesting in that its female storyteller challenges notions of a woman’s ability to remarry, however it does stick to a traditional notion of women, so not sure whether you could call this a feminist text…but then again, how much I understood it is debatable.
I was surprised to find reading Shakespeare’s The Tempest was not nearly as difficult as I expected. I had to read Hamlet for past studies and it took two read throughs and then an audiobook before I could understand it. Maybe it was having just read Chaucer, but this time around, I realised Shakespeare’s English actually isn’t as different as it first appears. The story of The Tempest was…weird and the characters weren’t terribly complex (it is meant to be a play, so I’m sure it’s more entertaining on the stage), yet it was amusing and, need it even be said, well written.
Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen & New Grub Street by George GissingNorthanger Abbey was my favourite read of the course and aided me in my mission to read all of Jane Austen’s works. It’s much lighter and shorter than Pride and Prejudice, but really interesting in its narration on the place and importance of the novel at the time (as well as books written by and for women).
New Grub Street was both depressing in the lives and fates of its characters and fascinating in offering a view of the publishing industry (albeit a pretty pessimistic one) in the late 1800s. I enjoyed it, despite its grim tone.
Fun Home by Alison Bechdel & A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer EganThe only graphic novel I read during the first year of English studies, Fun Home was a quick read full of intertextuality (quite a lot I probably wouldn’t have gotten on my own) and an interesting structure where every chapter started earlier in the timeline than the previous one ended.
I enjoyed A Visit from the Goon Squad far more than I expected (I’m always scared by postmodernism). The 13 chapters are written like separate stories from different characters’ perspectives, timelines all jumbled, but they all interconnect in small ways. I especially liked Selling the General.
This course covered such a range of genres and styles and a long timeline, it was a great way to get to know literary history a bit more!