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Study information

Renaissance and Revolution

Module titleRenaissance and Revolution
Module codeEAS2080
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Niall Allsopp (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces English literature written during the most violent and turbulent period of English history: the seventeenth century. The module traces literature from Shakespeare to Milton, exploring literary culture at the courts of the Stuart kings James I, Charles I, and Charles II, as well as literary reactions to the civil war, the execution of the king, and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. It includes drama, poetry, and prose, and studies major male and female writers within their wider literary and historical landscape.

Module aims - intentions of the module

• To introduce you to English literature during one of the most violent, turbulent period of English history.
• To trace the development of literature from Shakespeare to Milton, through the reigns of James I, Charles I, and Charles II, and the civil wars, execution of the king, and rule of Oliver Cromwell.
• To read the work of major writers like William Shakespeare, John Milton, and Aphra Behn within their historical context, alongside the writings of prophets and visionaries, cavaliers and libertines.
• Key themes include: monarchy and the display of power; political violence and revolution; gender, sexuality, and the growth of women’s writing; nationhood, travel, and the beginnings of empire; pastoral and depictions of the countryside; radicalism and the rise of popular print.
• You will be introduced to the political and social conflicts which divided English society before and during the Civil War and the Restoration, and to the writers who intervened in and drove those conflicts.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific key seventeenth-century authors and texts
  • 2. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of seventeenth-century literary historythe range and development of genres, forms, media, and modes in seventeenth-century literature
  • 3. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of the relation between seventeenth-century literature and important historical and intellectual developments of the timekey historical and intellectual developments that shaped seventeenth-century literature

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to analyse the literature of an earlier era and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to interrelate relate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline withliterary texts to issues in the wider context and disciplines of cultural, and intellectual, and political history
  • 6. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Through seminar work, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 8. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 9. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:
This module will explore the rich and diverse literature produced throughout the 17th century, enabling us to map key issues and themes in relation to the historical-cultural shifts occurring during this period of profound upheaval and rapid change.
It will provide an opportunity to consider the role of literary and dramatic forms and representations, and their significant political and social intervention. We will look at the ways in which they engage with the operations of power: how do they transgress or conform? What is their response to conflict, change, and violence? How can literature both reflect and shape political and religious identities? How does it allow for alternative voices to be heard? In addressing these questions, we shall examine the significance of gender, allegiance, community, and social position, and how these issues relate to the status of the writer. We shall consider attitudes towards sexuality and the body, expressions of emotion, and also explore how the literature of this period negotiates cross-cultural contact and understandings of ethnicity.
The module is structured chronologically, which will allow us to track these changes. It will begin with the dramatic and literary output of the early Stuart period, under James I and Charles I, identifying the increasing tensions leading up to the period of the Civil Wars. The middle weeks of the module will look at the literature of the Revolutionary period - a period which witnessed war, the execution of Charles I, and the creation of the English Republic. Writing was a way to register the astounding events of the time, to articulate a view about them, and also to shape them. The final weeks of the module will look at the changes to literature and representation brought about by the Restoration to the throne of Charles II, bringing with it a new debate about the origins and nature of government and monarchy.
Teaching is by weekly two-hour seminar and one-hour lecture, with 5 further context lectures, plus an additional research-based event (in previous years, a field trip).

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching1616 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching2211 x 2 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching21 x 2 hour workshop
Scheduled learning and teaching11 x 1 hour revision lecture
Guided independent study 70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study 189Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Mini-Research Essay 1000-word essay1-6, 8-9Written feedback with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay 1402,000 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay 2502,500 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Module participation10Continuous 7, 9Oral feedback with opportunity for office hours follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay 1Essay 11-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral period
Essay 2Essay 21-6, 8-9Referral/Deferral period
Module participationRepeat study or Mitigation7, 9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Norton Anthology of English Literature: Eighth Edition. Volume B: The Sixteenth Century/The Early Seventeenth Century (W.W. Norton, 2006).
  • Shakespeare, Othello (Arden 3rd series, 2016).
  • John Ford, 'Tis Pity She's a Whore and other plays (Oxford World Classics, 1999).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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