Course | Chaucer Aloud: Sex, Love, and Marriage

Date / Time

  • September 19, 2019
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • October 17, 2019
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • November 14, 2019
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm
  • December 5, 2019
    6:00 pm - 8:00 pm


2008-2010 Delancey Place, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19103, United States



In this class we will read Chaucer aloud, in Middle English, since that is more fun than silent reading, and is actually how Chaucer expected his tales to be enjoyed. Middle English is wonderfully phonetic, and expressive, so no worries if you have never read it before (or not since High School). We begin with the Wife of Bath, a female speaker who tells of her five marriages (while looking for husband number six), and who both enjoys sex and makes good use of it as bargaining tool behind the bed curtains. We will see why women poets of our time, such as Jean Binta Breeze, Patience Agbabi, and Caroline Bergvall, have found her a creative inspiration. When her long prologue is done, the Wife tells her Tale, which anticipates a key question posed by Freud (“what does a woman want?”). We then move on to the Clerk’s Tale, which sees an aristocratic husband demand total obedience from his wife, the patient Griselde. Our fourth and final class turns to The Franklin’s Tale, in which an easy-living middle aged man attempts to resolve all difficulties in marriage, advocating compromise in all relationships and bringing us to a happy ending. And throughout the course we will look at some of the wonderful Chaucer-related materials held by The Rosenbach.


syllabus Chaucer Aloud

About the Instructor

David Wallace has been Judith Rodin Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1996, and has served as President of the Medieval Academy and of the New Chaucer Society. He leads tours for Penn Alumni Travel and teaches contemporary travel writing as well as Chaucer, Dante, and premodern women. He takes especial interest in poetics and performance, and participates in the conversation-performances of the multi-media artist Caroline Bergvall (most recently on the mad king Sweeney in Dublin). He lives on Delancey Place, three blocks from the Rosenbach.

About Rosenbach Courses

Revisit beloved classics or experience new ones with Rosenbach courses. Book lovers delve into fiction, history, and poetry with the guidance of a literary expert and the company of other readers. See all upcoming courses.