Literature and Life: c. 1400-1700 - ENGL6920

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2022 to 2023.


This module examines early modern literature written from 1400 to 1700. Looking at a wide range of literary forms, including poetry, prose and drama, students will consider how early modern writers engage with questions of love, gender and sexuality; religion and religious belief; nationhood, travel and colonisation; social commentary, governance and political reform. We will consider how important debates surrounding political, social, gender and religious identity inflect and are reflected in the literature of the period.

The module recognises the literary achievements of male and female authors. Students will have opportunity to read canonical works by Edmund Spenser and John Milton alongside those of pioneering female writers, such as Aemilia Lanyer and Lady Mary Wroth. We will also explore the boundaries of the literary canon, encountering pamphlets, petitions, sermons and conduct books, and consider the ways in which literary and non-literary texts both mirror and influence culture and society.

Please note that the authors, texts, and themes may change periodically in accordance with the research interests and expertise of academic teaching staff.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 32
Private study hours:268
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Seminar Participation (20%)
Reflective Portfolio (2,000 words) (20%)
Close Reading (1,250 words) (15%)
Research Project (3,000 words, performance, audio or AV production) (45%)

Reassessment methods:
Alternative Assessment: 100% coursework (4,000 words)

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Baldwin, W. (1988) Beware the Cat: The First English Novel, ed. William A. Ringler, Jr. and Michael Flachmann. San Marino, CA: Huntington Library.
Bevington, D. (2002) English Renaissance Drama: A Norton Anthology. London: W. W. Norton.
Greenblatt, S. ed. (2018) The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Vol. B. The Sixteenth Century and The Early Seventeenth Century. Tenth Edition. London: W. W. Norton.
Lindley, D. (1995) Court Masques: Jacobean and Caroline Entertainments, 1605-1640. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, G, Jowett, J. and Bourus. T. eds. (2017) The New Oxford Shakespeare. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

The majority of primary texts are available in The Norton Anthology of English Literature: Vol. B. Any texts that are not included in the anthology will be made available via a course reader.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 read and respond critically to the works of writers of the early modern period
2 consider and analyse the concept of the literary in relation to life in this period, in terms of theatrical, political, cultural and social contexts
3 develop a critical understanding of the development of literature in the early modern period
4 become conversant with current critical approaches and debates to the literature

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading
2 demonstrate their command of written English and their abilities to articulate coherent critical arguments
3 understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches
4 demonstrate their abilities to carry out independent research
5 demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively to a variety of audiences and/or using a variety of methods.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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