Skip to main content

Study information

Feeling Bodies: Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture, 1500-1700

Module titleFeeling Bodies: Emotions in Early Modern Literature and Culture, 1500-1700
Module codeEAS3416
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Naya Tsentourou (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module studies the history and theory of emotions, combining cutting-edge theory with the analysis of Renaissance texts. It asks: Do emotions such as love, anger, pain, and shame remain universal constants in all times and places or do they have a history to tell? Do they have a gender? Do they have a race? Building on some basic familiarity with the Renaissance, you will explore representations of the passions in early modern literature and examine the role of culture (religious, political, scientific, philosophical, and theatrical) in their formation. Analysing individual and communal emotions in a range of texts you will undertake archival research, blog about your findings, and engage in dialogue with some of the most exciting areas of recent interdisciplinary scholarship in the humanities (e.g. affect theory, history of emotions, medical humanities).

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims:

  • to place emotions at the heart of your understanding of the early modern period
  • to introduce you to literary texts which are concerned with corporeality, passions, and emotional communities from the Renaissance to the Restoration and to offer an advanced study of major authors such as Shakespeare, Milton, and Behn, next to less-studied authors such as Elizabeth Cary and Richard Crashaw
  • to introduce you to affect theory and key theorists on emotions such as Sara Ahmed, Sianne Ngai, Martha Nussbaum, and Ann Cvetkovich, and thus to enable you to build a theoretical knowledge and framework in which to investigate emotions and draw connections between the early modern and the modern world
  • to enable you to study categories such as gender and race, and their representation in early modern literature, through emotions
  • to encourage and facilitate a research-led attitude to learning by offering you the opportunity to work with material from the Wellcome Library and the Wellcome Collection
  • to invite you to consider traditional and non-traditional routes of engaging with your subject, by adopting a hands-on approach at digital archives, by leading seminars, and by researching and disseminating your work via digital channels, thus developing key skills for postgraduate study and/or for careers in the arts, education, heritage, journalism, and the creative industries.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Engage with and understand a variety of 16th and 17th century texts and be able to analyse these texts in detail in relation to their cultural contexts
  • 2. Think critically about emotions and their importance in early modern literature
  • 3. Show a grasp of some key ideological contexts framing the representation of passions in the early modern period, particularly in relation to medicine, religion, gender, nation, and race

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 4. Read texts closely and understand their place in their historical context
  • 5. Appreciate the value of archives and databases in explorations of literature
  • 6. Understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and terms, and apply these in the analysis of literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Work independently and develop research skills, as well as work towards deadlines and manage your time effectively
  • 8. Analyse and evaluate arguments and texts based on evidence
  • 9. Think critically, i.e. confidently, rigorously, and independently, and construct complex arguments in different forms of writing (e.g. academic essay, blog post) and in seminar discussions
  • 10. Show fluency and clarity, and effective communications skills, including the ability to lead a seminar discussion

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:



  • Anatomizing the Self: Early Modern and Modern Understandings of Emotions
  • Anger (I): Theory Workshop / William Shakespeare, Coriolanus
  • Anger (II): Elizabeth Cary, The Tragedy of Mariam
  • Shame: William Shakespeare, Measure for Measure
  • Sadness and Melancholy: Theory workshop / selection of extracts from early modern medical and literary texts
  • Love: John Ford, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore, Richard Crashaw The Flaming Heart
  • Envy: William Shakespeare, Othello
  • Public Grief and Compassion: Session at Exeter Cathedral Library Archives, looking at The King’s Cabinet Opened, Eikon Basilike, Eikon Aklastos, Thomas Symmes’ ballad ‘Invective against Papists’ as well as other sources relating to the course, such as Bibles from the 16th and 17th centuries, Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (a 16th-century and two 17th-century editions) and a Second Folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays. Students are also expected to have read: Katherine Philips, ‘Upon the Double Murder of King Charles’, and Henry King, ‘A Deep Groane’
  • Despair and Catharsis: John Milton, Samson Agonistes
  • Desire: Theory Workshop / Aphra Behn, The Fair Jilt
  • Anatomizing the Self II: Inside Out (Pixar film, 2015)

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 Teaching 8Lecture (8 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 3Theory Workshops (3 x 1 hour)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 22Seminar (11 x 2 hours)
Guided Independent Study 267Independent study

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
Blog post OR Humoral Diary151500 words1-10Coversheet (written) and oral in office hours
Literature Review 352000 words1-10Coversheet (written) and oral in office hours
Essay503500 words1-10Coversheet (written) and oral in office hours

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Blog post OR Humoral DiaryBlog post OR Humoral Diary1-10August Ref/Def
Literature ReviewLiterature Review1-10August Ref/Def
EssayEssay1-10August Ref/Def

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

Basic reading:

  • Ahmed, Sara. "Affective Economies" Social Text 22.2 (2004): 117-139.
  • Broomhall, Susan. Ed. Emotions in Early Modern Europe: An Introduction. London: Routledge, 2017.
  • Plamper, Jan. ‘The History of Emotions: An Interview with William Reddy, Barbara Rosenwein, and Peter Stearns’. History and Theory 49 (2010): 237–265.
  • Scheer, Monique. ‘Are Emotions a Kind of Practice (And Is That What Makes Them Have a History)? A Bourdieuian Approach to Understanding Emotion’. History and Theory 51 (2012): 193–220.
  • Bailey, Merridee, and Katie Barclay. Eds. Emotion, Ritual, and Power in Europe 1200-1920. Palgrave, 2017.
  • Escolme, Bridget. Emotional Excess on the Shakespearean Stage (London: Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2013).
  • Karant-Nunn, Susan C. The Reformation of Feeling: Shaping the Religious Emotions in Early Modern Germany. New York: Oxford University Pres, 2010.
  • Meek, Richard, and Erin Sullivan. Eds. The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries. Manchester: MUP, 2015.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Emotions, early modern, bodies, affect, theory, literature, culture

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date