Sample Annotations

Warning! Do not confuse annotations with summaries. They are designed to provide a quick review of what you've read so that either you can recall the thesis and usefulness of the article or another researcher can decide whether she wishes to read it. Annotations need not be longer than a short paragraph. Once they've covered the following, they are complete: bibliographic citation (MLA), thesis (whenever possible quote directly from the author and cite page number), critical bias, and limitations or usefulness for this course. At the end, please also include the date read.

N.B. Although the examples below are single-spaced, yours should be double-spaced.

A word of good cheer. The following was received by e-mail from Jennifer Butts, English major, BSC 1996, as she began her graduate work in English:
. . .Another thing. And for this, I'll say thanks in advance because I haven't started my
project(s) yet. Thanks for those horrible annotations. Shall I say it again? Thanks for those
helpful annotations. I would be completely lost without that experience, however painful it

Aers, David. Chaucer. Brighton: Harvester P, 1986. 85-92.

Aers calls the promotions of "the Franklin's Tale" as Chaucer's resolution of the marriage debate, celebrating the successful fusion of love and marriage, naive. He says, "The poet's satiric target is not the one squire; rather it is the manipulative nature of the male language of 'servyce' and 'love'"(87). Sensitive to the politics of language, this discussion is useful in reminding readers of the social implications of words' meanings and of the complexity with which Chaucer handled language. Aers favors contextual, non-dramatic criticism. 25 March.

Cooper, Helen. "'The General Prologue.'" The Canterbury Tales. Oxford, Claredon P, 1989.

In what is essentially a reader's guide to The Canterbury Tales, Cooper discusses each of the pilgrims in the order he or she appears in the prologue, examining the implications of Chaucer's descriptions and how these descriptions raise certain expectations in the mind of the medieval reader. While the pilgrims are identified by their occupations, rather than by their names, and while the portrait of each may adapt an appropriate level of language, individually most of the pilgrims do not meet the expectations raised by their professional types. Consequently, Cooper concludes, Chaucer consistently challenges the expectations of his audience, which is a useful warning to the beginning reader of his works. 2 February.

Kearney, A. M. "Truth and Illusion in The Franklin's Tale." Essays in Criticism 19 (1969):245-53.
Proposing that Dorigen acts as "rash and over-passionate" (250) as Aurelius, Kearney argues that Averagus shows his strength of character by asserting his sovereignty over her. Kearney's Patristic and noticeably gender biased article concludes that although "it is very difficult to pin Chaucer down to anything so completely definite," he believed a successful marriage depended on sovereignty of the husband (251). Assuming that the Franklin's view is Chaucer's, Kearney's essay fails to address any questions of verbal irony or social satire. 15 March.

Strohm, Paul. "The Social and Literary Scene in England." The Cambridge Chaucer
Companion. Eds. Piero Boitani and Jill Mann. New York: Cambridge UP, 1986. 1-18.

Strohm provides a concise overview of Chaucer's cultural milieu and of Chaucer's own life. He also discusses the literary conventions from which Chaucer wrote, "for who he wrote [his works], and in what ways he expected them to be promulgated" (5). The essay concludes with a discussion of Chaucer as a social poet, stating that while "Chaucer is neither profoundly topical nor profoundly historical, he is nevertheless profoundly social" (13). Strohm's essay seems to have its roots in the conventional nineteenth-century belief that Chaucer's importance as a writer stems from his skill as a story-teller and a recorder of medieval life; the article's usefulness lies in its brief summary of the historical and social highlights of the era. 11 February.

Susan K. Hagen, Birmingham-Southern College

revised 14 February 1997