Senior Skills: Using Language for Social Commentary

As we’ve read the Middle English version of The Canterbury Tales this week, we’ve discussed how Chaucer used the tales to critique society. The stories of “The Prioress” and “The Pardoner” served as social commentary on the corruption in the church, while “The Reeve” and “The Miller” tales served as commentary on the lack of morality in society.

We discussed how the delivery method of social commentary is much different today than in Chaucer’s time – while only roughly 100 copies of his book were sold in his lifetime, today we can share critiques about society with thousands of people at once through social media.

In our Socratic Seminar you discussed whether social media was the most effective form to use for social commentary – and you had brilliant conversations about what we value in society today, and how the persona and authority of a speak impacts the reach of their commentary. You also focused on the fact that many people are addicted to attention on social media, whether positive or negative, by citing this Harvard study – and you discussed how this addiction can impact what commentary we decide to share.

I’ve been very impressed with your discussions and analysis the past two weeks – it is important to understand how literature and language are used to praise or critique society and culture, as this is usually the first step towards making changes in a society or culture. You’ve already identified a few examples of social commentary from the 21st century in our class discussion post – now I would like you to create your own piece of social commentary.

Please click here for the full assignment sheet and grading rubric.

Choose a current event that you believe is important or worthy of social commentary.  Using the traits of effective rhetoric, create a piece of commentary about your chosen event or cultural trait. You may type, perform, write or create their social commentary – either physically or digitally.

You will be assessed on whether the rhetoric and language used in their commentary is effective for your stated purpose and audience. See a few examples below if you need ideas.

 

A piece of art – social commentary on how we are addicted to our phone – specially focused on the trend surrounding the ‘Pokemon Go’ game.

A social media campaign – this hashtag movement started the now widespread conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood.

A poster – this piece of graphic design is commenting on animal testing for beauty products.

Donald Glover’s music video for the song ”This is America” severed as a piece of social commentary on police brutality and racial profiling.

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018

Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

In Chaucer’s time the church was the established cultural center of British life, and the power and importance of the church outranked even the monarchy. Towns and villages that once grew around lords providing protection now grew up around church and cathedrals. Worshipers traveled to receive sacraments and to indulgences, and to see the relics of holy saints. Men gained social status and education through working their way up through the clergy, and the church provided guidance to the people on all moral and spiritual matters.

At the same time, British society was changing – a new merchant middle class meant that upward mobility was possible for a greater number of people, as was societal influence.

Chaucer’s famous work, The Canterbury Tales, comments on these societal changes. Throughout the text we see the relationship between the classes and their expected behavior, the role of women in medieval society, the importance (and sometimes corruption) of the church through the stories of 29 individuals who are going in a pilgrimage to the cathedral at Canterbury.

Watch the video below for information on how Chaucer used language to make this social commentary.

Click here to access the stories from class with interlinear translations.

You have each been given one of four tales: The Prioress’ Tale, the prologue to the Pardoner’s Tale, the Miller’s Tale and the Reeves’ Tale. Watch the videos below for background information on each tale you’ve been assigned. Then click here to access your project over the tale from The Canterbury Tales. 

The Prioress

The Pardoner

 

The Reeve

The Miller

12th Grade Literature Fall 2018