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Study information

Violence and Virtue: Early Modern French Theatre

Module titleViolence and Virtue: Early Modern French Theatre
Module codeMLF2070
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Adam Horsley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

The seventeenth century was a great age of French theatre, including the celebrated comedies of Molière and the tragedies of Racine. This module offers an overview of French theatre during this period through its three great playwrights. Our French texts transport you to Medieval Spain, highlight the influence of Italian sketch theatre, offer biting satires of French society, and culminate in ancient Greek myth. You will study bloodthirsty revenge, the place of women in patriarchal society, education and social mobility, manipulators behind masks, and the world of gods and monsters. You will also observe changes in literary tastes, as theatregoers desensitized to violence from the Wars of Religion gave way to spectators whose fondness for linguistic eloquence and moral commentaries on their own times were strikingly modern. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

You will gain a solid knowledge of three of the most decorated writers in French literature. This will allow you to acquire a firm understanding of the full range of social, linguistic and moral stakes and shifts that these plays represent. Along with a general awareness of the development of theatrical theories and codes of practice in seventeenth-century France, you will develop confidence in analysing developments in character and plot when writing on plays and wider literature. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a sound understanding of the set texts, including their place in the historic, literary and cultural context of their time
  • 2. Demonstrate an awareness of the changing forms of theatre over the period of study

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. With some guidance, evaluate and apply a range of critical approaches to the material covered
  • 4. Mount a detailed argument in the appropriate register of English, using quotations from both the primary text and secondary critical sources
  • 5. Access and use critically printed and, where appropriate, electronic learning resources identified as useful by the module convenor
  • 6. Undertake close readings of selected passages from the plays

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 7. Present a cogent and sustained argument orally / in writing, in English, on a topic chosen from a range of options provided, following broad guidelines but selecting and adapting them as required
  • 8. Using course material provided, research, plan and write an essay on a chosen aspect of the subject, to a specified length and deadline

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:

  • Lectures will be provided covering brief biographies of our playwrights and the principal themes of our texts of study. In seminars we will undertake close readings of specific scenes from the plays, aided by preliminary questions prescribed to students in advance. 

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 Teaching55 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching 1010 x 1 hour seminars
Scheduled Learning and Teaching1Conclusion
Guided independent study134Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short essay500 words1-8Written and oral

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
Essay10025001-8Written and oral

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8Re/Def 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

Set texts:

  • Pierre Corneille, Le Cid (1636): quotations will be given from the Petits Classiques Larousse (2012) edition in class, but any edition may be used.
  • Molière, Le Tartuffe (1664).
  • Molière, Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme (1670): quotations will be given from the Georges Couton edition (Folio Classiques 2013), but any edition may be used.
  • Jean Racine, Phèdre (1677): quotations will be given from the Petits Classiques Larousse (2011) edition in class, but any edition may be used.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Key words search

Theatre, literature, early modern, performance, history, seventeenth century

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

MLF1001 or MLF1052 or equivalent

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date