Chaucer Studies: MLA Documentation

Michael Delahoyde
Washington State University


In writing about literature (and film), we tend to use present tense to convey the ongoing life of the work: e.g., Chaucer describes a fastidious prioress; the Canon’s Yeoman reveals alchemical secrets.

Inside your discussion, when quoting the primary work, offer line numbers and, if jumping between texts may cause some confusion, an abbreviation of the work beforehand (or with the Canterbury Tales, the fragment). For example, “nature wolde nat suffyse / To noon erthly creature / Withoute slep” (BD 18-20); or, Chaucer offers a bibliography in the Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale (B 57-85).

When quoting four or more lines from a source, normally you should use block quotation:

Right as, betwixen adamauntes two
Of evene myght, a pece of yren set
Ne hath no myght to meve to ne fro–
For what that oon may hale, that other let–
(PF 148-151)

In your manuscript, indent block quotations twice — they are distinct from normal paragraph indentations.

Regarding secondary sources, offer parenthetical citations (just author and page) not only for direct quotations, but also for summarized and paraphrased material from sources: e.g., Chaucer and Deschamps had similar careers involving service at court and travel on the king’s business (Wimsatt 272). Note proper punctuation in citing (no comma, no pg., no pgs, nothing but a space between author and page!). Interested readers can easily retrieve full bibliographic information by referring to your alphabetized list of works at the end of the paper or somewhere on the web site.

The following list shows correct format for books, articles, television shows, films, primary sources contained inside edited works, web sites, CDs, and mostly actual resources for various types of humanities research.

Works Cited

Aers, David. “The Parliament of Fowls: Authority, the Knower and the Known.” Chaucer Review 16 (Summer 1981): 1-17.

Andreas Capellanus. The Art of Courtly Love. Trans. John Jay Parry. NY: Columbia University Press, 1990.

Brown, Murray L. “Poets, Peace, the Passion, and the Prince: Eustace Deschamps’s ‘Ballade to Chaucer.'” Chaucer’s French Contemporaries: The Poetry/Poetics of Self and Tradition. Ed. R. Barton Palmer. NY: AMS Press, Inc., 1999. 187-215.

Brusendorff, Aage. The Chaucer Tradition. 1925. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966.

Chaucer, Geoffrey. The Book of the Duchess. In The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987. 330-346.

—. The Parliament of Fowls. In The Riverside Chaucer. Ed. Larry D. Benson. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1987. 385-394.

The Crusades. Narr. Terry Jones. 4 episodes. The History Channel. 30 Apr.-3 May 1996.

Donaldson, E. Talbot. “The Myth of Courtly Love.” Speaking of Chaucer. NY: W.W. Norton and Co., Inc., 1970. 154­163.

Forni, Kathleen. The Chaucerian Apocrypha: A Counterfeit Canon. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

“John of Gaunt.” The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia. Ed. H.R. Loyn. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1989. 194.

Kittredge, G.L. Chaucer and His Poetry. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1915.

—. “Chaucer’s Discussion of Marriage.” Modern Philology 9 (1912): 435-467.

“The Life of Chaucer.” Geoffrey Chaucer Website. (27 July 2000).

The Love God? Starring Don Knotts. United Artists, 1969.

Loyn, H.R., ed. The Middle Ages: A Concise Encyclopedia. London:Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1989.

Macrobius. Commentary on the Dream of Scipio. Trans. William Harris Stahl. NY: Columbia University Press, 1951.

Menand, Louis. “Love Stories.” New Yorker 25 Aug./1 Sept. 1997: 9-10.

The New English Bible. NY: Oxford University Press, 1972.

Shaner, M.C.E. Introduction. The Legend of Good Women. In The Riverside Chaucer. 587-588.

Songs of the Canterbury Tales. CD. Opus Anglicanum. Oxford: Historical Collections Ltd., 1995. 3184.

Tatlock, J.S.P. A Concordance to the Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Concord: Rumford Press, 1927.

Williams, George. A New View of Chaucer. Durham: Duke University Press, 1965.