Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

A Great Books Discussion Course

Go Back

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

A world-class opportunity to get acquainted with one of the foundations of English literature — and even of the English language itself.

The Canterbury Tales are among the most widely read and beloved writings in the long history of the English language. In addition to providing superb entertainment value, Chaucer’s descriptions of his characters and the interactions between them paint a rich portrait of English society in the 14th century. This course will focus on reading and discussing a number of tales of various types — comic, tragic, virtuous, and ignoble — in an attempt to develop a multifaceted appreciation of the crowning achievement of the poet whose successors deemed him “the first founder of our fair language.”





David Shiner

David Shiner is an retired professor at Shimer College (now the Shimer Great Brooks School at North Central College), where he taught for 40 years and served several terms as Dean of the College. Throughout his teaching career, Mr. Shiner has helped intellectually curious individuals master classic works from all areas of liberal studies — including philosophy, literature, music, sociology and biology — and he regularly receives outstanding course evaluations that emphasize both his understanding of the texts and his ability to bring out the best in students. Mr. Shiner brings to his classes a love of ideas and a penchant for helping adults from all walks of life develop their ability to subject every text to careful critical scrutiny.

Course #: 



  • 7 Weeks


  • 1 hr 45 min


  • Online


US$ 235


“Early Bird” reduced tuition (US$ 195) available through September 10, 2017.

Section A(Course #: 170901A)

Tuesday, 2:00 PM CT
Sep 26, 2017 to Nov 07, 2017

Section B(Course #: 170901B)

Thursday, 7:00 PM CT
Sep 28, 2017 to Nov 09, 2017

Course Documents

Please Note

General Information

Like all Great Discourses discussion courses, this live, interactive online discussion course is designed to facilitate the collaborative close readings of classics in ways that help participants transform the challenging into the exhilarating and elevating through “Aha!” moments of profound discovery. Participation requires an Internet-enabled computer or mobile device. The course is open to adults from all walks of life (and to mature teens with parental consent) and does not require any specialized prior knowledge or experience. Students do a modest amount of reading homework in preparation for each live online class session, but there are no papers, no tests and no grades. The readings and discussion are in English.


Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Canterbury Tales (1478).
Recommended Edition: Penguin Classics, 2003. ISBN: 978-0140424386.
View/Buy at: Amazon (US), Amazon (CA), Amazon (UK), Amazon (IN), Amazon (AU)

Please Note

You are responsible for obtaining your own copy of each book used in this discussion course. Most books are available in a number of editions, in both print and digital formats. All editions are acceptable unless otherwise noted, although print format texts are generally recommended. If you do choose to use a digital text, try to access it on a device other than the one you will using to connect to the online classroom.

Additional Readings

This course may have additional short readings that will be used during the first class session as well as during other class sessions. These will be available to you on the dedicated course page at the Great Discourses Collaboratory Online Course Center once you have completed your registration for this course.


To get the most out of this discussion course, you will have to do a modest amount of reading homework in between class sessions — usually about two hours of reading for each hour of class time. No homework is required before the first class session (although some technical and general preparation is required).

Questions? Suggestions? Contact Us

What students are saying

David Shiner’s method of facilitating class is very effective. His way of eliciting thoughts about concepts allows for a greater understanding of the text and the implications of the text. I feel he holds students to his expectations very well, and I appreciate these high expectations. They are always, fair, and conducive to a better class experience.

David Shiner is incredibly helpful and wonderful. He keeps the discussion focused and students participating. He truly guides the class, which not all instructors do.

David Shiner is the best facilitator ever. He is awesome and I hope I have him again.

David Shiner is a master at the Socratic method.