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English teacher chosen to present paper in London

Chaucer_Hoccleve copyThe Canterbury Tales are all about a pilgrimage, and now Greenhills English teacher Mark Randolph is set to make a pilgrimage of his own – to the land where The Canterbury Tales were born.

Randolph, who teaches Chaucer’s best-known work in his Greenhills English classes, recently learned that his paper, “ ‘How shal the world be served?’: Passion, Error, and the Redemption in the Teaching of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales” has been accepted for presentation at an academic conference in London next summer.

He’ll present his work at the “Relevance and Difference” session of the Congress of the New Chaucer Society in July. Randolph says his paper serves as a rallying cry urging the continued study of Chaucer, as well as an encouragement for readers to follow Chaucer’s example by embarking on modern pilgrimages of their own.

In the paper’s abstract, Randolph refers to a California high school student who says she and her peers are “lifeless bodies in a system that breeds competition, hatred, and discourages teamwork and genuine learning. We lack sincere passion. We are sick.”

“Quite simply,” Randolph writes, “this paper intends to address this ‘lack,’ this ‘sickness,’ with the physic of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.”

Randolph goes on to analyze the California student’s lament, diagnosing the emptiness she feels as a longing for “genuine learning” and “sincere passion.” This is “a context in which sacrifice and suffering are purposeful, where choices develop agency and power, in which individuals see the profit in helping others, where wandering leads to greater knowledge not certain destruction.”

In short, the kind of thing pilgrims experience on a pilgrimage.

“Through the act of reading Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales we, his students, are constructed as pilgrims,” Randolph writes. “Consequently, the primary task for teachers of The Canterbury Tales must be to invite our students to join the journey. … We do this, I maintain, by asking the question which the Chaucer Poet posits after ambiguously reflecting on the Monk, namely, ‘How shal the world be served?” which is to say, how will we negotiate with the unreasonableness of the world?”

Randolph will present his work during the conference, held at Queen Mary, University of London from July 10-15.

Saturday, April 24
Open to anyone ages 16 and up. Limited quantities available.
Greenhills is closed for mid-winter break and will return on Tuesday, Feb. 22.