BW Students Bring Canterbury Tales to Life

January 5, 2012

Baldwin Wallace University English professor, Susan Oldrieve gave her students a unique perspective on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales this fall with an experiential learning expedition of their own.

Students in Dr. Susan Oldrieve’s advanced studies Chaucer class, along with any other willing participants, reenacted the famous Canterbury Tales pilgrimage from London to Canterbury with their own version through northeast Ohio.

In order to make the pilgrimage as authentic as possible, the students in the Chaucer class did research into medieval pilgrimages prior to the trip. These students also created information sheets about the various pilgrims and their tales to give to participants not in the Chaucer class.

Students Trek 24 Miles Over Two Days

The BW pilgrims embarked on their journey on a Friday morning and walked ten miles through the Metroparks to Lorain road, where they enjoyed a medieval feast at the Emerald Necklace Inn before preceding to La Quinta for the night. On Saturday, their pilgrimage continued towards Cleveland, with a stop for lunch at the West Side Market.

Along their route, the students made numerous stops to act out the story and recite each pilgrim’s tale. They finally reached the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in time for their 4:30 Mass on Saturday. They concluded their twelve-mile trek at the Holiday Inn Express on Euclid Avenue. Sunday morning, the pilgrims made one last stop at Trinity Cathedral’s 11:15 service before returning to Berea.

Pilgrimage Leads to "Profound Understanding"

Having taught this class every three years since 1988, Oldrieve says she has always tried to incorporate some creative performance or endeavor, but this is the first time she has tried this particular pilgrimage. Oldrieve said she wants the students to understand the nature of each story, but also the complex interactions among the pilgrims throughout The Canterbury Tales.

Oldrieve said the goal was to give students “a much more detailed and profound understanding of The Canterbury Tales and its complexities than they would (gain) just reading and discussing the text in a more traditional setting.”

The pilgrimage was partially funded by the Explorations/Study Abroad field trip funds and the English department field trip funds.