'To Caunturbury they wende'

With the Short Term unit “Reading Chaucer: A Brief Introduction to The Canterbury Tales,” President Elaine Tuttle Hansen returns to teaching for the first time in a decade.

“How to do any Chaucer in five weeks has been my quandary,” says Hansen, a Chaucer expert whose affection for the 14th-century poet even led her to fashion a previous e-mail address from his name.

Her solution to the tight schedule is to focus more on reading Middle English, the language of Chaucer, than on analyzing the tales. “People are intimidated by it — but it doesn’t take long, if you really work, to find that you can read Middle English quite easily,” she says.

One reason that Hansen is eager to teach the course is that she wants to better understand Short Term itself, with its controversial mix of units intensely rigorous, boldly experimental, and wondrously easy. Too, she misses the connection with students that’s unique to teaching.

But, during this intense year of fundraising and construction planning, she also sees “Reading Chaucer” as a kind of oasis.

“I deeply miss the intellectual activity that goes into preparing a course,” Hansen says. “It brings me back to things I love to think about that have nothing to do with the routine business of the college.”

“It’ll be profoundly rejuvenating — that’s my hope.”