The comic tales we will be studying are categorised as fabliaux, a medieval literary genre which flourished in France during the thirteenth century, but examples of which are scarce in the corpus of Middle English literature, outside of “The Canterbury Tales”. Chaucer uses the genre as a foundation for some of the most entertaining and humorous tales in English. Irreverent, bawdy, scurrilous, these tales may be read also as a critique of social and literary conventions. The tales to be studied are those of the Miller, the Reeve, the Merchant, and the Shipman.

Text book: Larry D. Benson, ed., 'The Riverside Chaucer', 3rd edition, reissued with a new foreword by Christopher Cannon (Oxford: OUP, 2008).