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Chaucer & His World
The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townsperson's World
A Woman's World
Discussion Points
Theory & Genre
How to Guide


Case Study

This resource was adapted from module materials originally delivered in a Virtual Learning Environment. This module was developed over three years for Level Two undergraduates at Hull University. It was based upon Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and was intended to enable students to read and enjoy the Tales. It was hoped that they would then cease to be nervous about texts in Middle English, and approach more of this material. Whilst doing this, students were enabled to develop and enhance their own transferable skills, and to provide a varied portfolio of work for use in career interviews.

The site was based upon the idea of ‘worlds’, or groupings within Chaucer’s pilgrims, based upon the society of his day. These were set out as follows:

The Author and his World
(The General Prologue and The Manciple’s Tale)
The World of Romance
(The Knight’s Tale, The Squire’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale)
The World Upside Down
(The Miller’s Tale, The Reeve’s Tale, The Merchant’s Tale)
A Woman’s World
(The Prioress’s Tale, The Second Nun’s Tale, The Wife of Bath’s Tale)
Worldly Clerks
(The Friar’s Tale, The Summoner’s Tale, The Pardoner’s Tale)

These were taught in nine or ten two-weekly seminars, and supported by showings of the BBC Animated Canterbury Tales.

On the original site, information was provided in small ‘factfiles’, with associated images. This is the format adapted for this site.

This idea has been adapted for this resource, although, of course, other groupings and other criteria are equally possible.
It is hoped that this resource will benefit a wider range of learners and teachers, from sixth-form students to postgraduate teachers, or even more experienced teachers in search of downloadable resources or inspiration.

In order to create a useful site and usable images, it was necessary to learn to use Macromedia’s Dreamweaver design programme and their Fireworks software, as well as Adobe’s Photoshop 7, by means of which the images were uploaded and customised. The database of images needed to be expanded, and copyright had to be a central issue. On the whole, this was avoided by the use of the author’s own photographs: as a result of this, the contents of the site are freely downloadable for all educational uses without copyright permission being sought. It is hoped that the images are relevant and useful, although it is possible to use the other ideas on the site, whilst substituting other available images. The images had to be supported by ‘alt’ text and metadata, which is sometimes problematic, but is easier to deal with if a formula is developed and adhered to. Larger areas of text are illustrated with images, in order to lead the reader and keep interest from flagging. The navigation has been carefully developed in order to offer the widest and most useful choices, whilst providing direction for those who require it.

Not all ‘factfile’ information could be included, as the resource had to be ‘image led’, but basic necessities such as Chaucer’s life and work, and information on medieval pilgrimage, has been included. The pedagogical content is provided on what is essentially a second part of the site, and may be used without the rest of the material. This provides the most useful selection of materials which were used on the course in key skills teaching (developed as a result of dialogue with Hull University’s Careers Department and Educational Development Team). The material has also been influenced by continual feedback from students, and reflective analysis (‘action research’) by the author. There are facilities on the site for user feedback, as it is hoped that development will continue.

The images:

These were scanned from photographs and slides into Adobe Photoshop 7, then saved as full-sized tif. images. These were then adapted and customised in Macromedia Fireworks. All were resized, and in many the brightness was altered. In some the contrast was also heightened, and in a few colour balance and saturation was changed. In the case of the fifteenth-century wall paintings from St Helen’s, Pickering, the colour was almost washed out. By using Fireworks, it was possible to trace some of the colour, and to magnify this, giving some impression (although not, admittedly, a fully accurate one) of the original. The images were then saved in JPEG format, and linked into the web pages, which were created and manipulated in Dreamweaver. The buttons were created by taking and processing slices from some of the images, in Fireworks.

The Website:

Initially an outline of the structure of the site was mapped out on paper. This constituted a visual representation of the relationships between the different areas of the site. The decision was made to use the natural character 'groups' to determine the overall site hierarchy (aristocrats, clerks etc). A prototype of the site was then prepared in Macromedia Dreamweaver MX to allow for testing of the navigation system that would allow learners to move around the site easily. Following significant improvements the content was added as well as the images themselves. Further information was added for each image on the 'alt' tag as well as a system of arrows at the bottom of each page to provide a sequential movement through the site if the user wishes.

(The sound recordings were made in the recording studios of Hull University’s Drama Department, and linked into the webpages as MPEG files).

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The Aristocratic World
The Churl's World
The Clerk's World
The Townspeople's world
A Woman's World
Chaucer and his world