Geoffrey Chaucer. Civil Servant and Poet

Ref: C2226791

Geoffrey Chaucer has had an immense influence on British culture during the last six hundred years. We begin by looking at the main events of Chaucer's lifetime (c.1343-1400) and his family background, before turning to aspects of the English and European literary traditions from which he drew and the milieu within which he worked as a 'courtly writer'. We consider contemporary perceptions of society and the groups/types of people of which it comprised, before looking at how Chaucer used this material in The Canterbury Tales. From this will emerge the different Chaucers inside and outside his writings. We then focus on two of the pilgrims and their tales, contrasting characters who tell stories for very different purposes, and we see how each tale links with other parts of the poem. The final sessions bring us back to the 'real' world to consider Chaucer 'the civil servant' and the changing attitudes of people at the end of the fourteenth century.

Additional information about this course

Half term 20/02/2020

Course aim

To learn about Chaucer, his family, upbringing and professional life as well as contemporary events and some of the ideas and literary heritage that were the background to his writing.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • Students need a level 2 qualification in English to join this course
  • This course is for students who attend a specific centre only. For more information please call 0300 303 3464
  • It is assumed that class members will have limited knowledge of Chaucer but have an interest in history and literature.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • State the main events of Chaucer's lifetime.
  • Describe the main phases of Chaucer's life from his early years until his death.
  • Name five (or more) of Chaucer's writings and put them broadly in chronological order.
  • Read Chaucerian English with some understanding and speak his lines in an authentic way.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how Chaucer's motivation towards his writing changed and how other features of late medieval mentality were changing.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You will be invited to write a pen portrait of a modern person in Chaucerian style, along the lines of the character descriptions in the General Prologue to The Canterbury Tales.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning. - Confirmation at the mid-point of the course that you are making some (or much) progress. - A note of your progress at the end of the course on the Student Learning Record, with suggestions for further research.

What else do I need to know?

  • A selection of materials and basic equipment will be provided but you are welcome to bring additional materials with you
  • It would be helpful if you had access to the internet (Mobile phone, tablet or computer at home or through a library etc.)
  • You will be expected to bring a notebook and pen or pencil to each session.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • Progress to more focused (structured) museum visits.

Download full course information sheet

Geoffrey Chaucer. Civil Servant and Poet

Is this course right for me? Request more information

This course is not available for online enrolment.


As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you book. Please could we ask that you check the list below to ensure you meet our basic criteria:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2019
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

Not sure or have further questions? Contact

Visa Credit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Debit payments supported by RBS WorldPay Visa Electron payments supported by RBS WorldPay Mastercard payments supported by RBS WorldPay Maestro payments supported by RBS WorldPay JCB payments supported by RBS WorldPay Solo payments supported by RBS WorldPay
RBS WorldPay Payments Processing