Literary “genre”

Instructions: Literary “genre” is familiar to all consumers of fiction. A genre is simply a category into which a piece of writing falls based on similar characteristics that we recognize and then come to expect. In film, for instance, we know a horror from a comedy from a drama, and we expect from those different categories certain qualities. The same is true with literature. We read a short story expecting certain qualities, a novel, certain others. In Chaucer, we have genres that you may never have read before: a medieval fabliau, Breton lay, or a beast fable. The Miller’s Tale is a “fabliau”—the plural is “fabliaux”—a kind of comic short story built around a dirty practical joke in which certain kinds of characters get punished and others triumph according to a sense of human nature being motivated by physical appetites and competition for scarce resources. The Wife of Bath’s Tale is an Arthurian story in the form of a Breton lay, a brief chivalric romance (not a love story, but an adventure) with magical elements that often takes up philosophic questions about love, fate, or power. The Nun’s Priest’s Tale is a beast fable. You may remember one of Aesop’s fables: a clever, quick story with animal protagonists and a human moral that raises ethical questions. Genre embodies not only kinds of characters, settings, styles and plots, but also sets of values. Genre sets the ground rules, and individual works launch themselves off those rules.

ASSIGNMENT: Translate the story of one of the three tales we’re reading into a one-page version of one of the other two genres.  In other words, do one of the following: rewrite the Wife of Bath’s Tale as a fabliau or beast fable, OR rewrite the Miller’s Tale as a Breton lay or beast fable, OR rewrite the Nun’s Priest’s Tale as a Breton lay or fabliau.  THEN write a paragraph explaining how your translation qualifies as an example of the genre by considering at least three main features such as setting, ensemble of characters, ending, values, plot, style, imagery, tone, etc.

Choose either the Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale OR The Miller’s Prologue and Tale– choose a couple of lines that you think create great imagery; copy them and explain what you like about them.

Number of Pages: 2 Pages

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