Literature and Life: c. 1400-1700 - EN692

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2017-18 2018-19
Canterbury Spring
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5 30 (15) DR SE Dustagheer
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5 30 (15)




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This module offers a survey of early modern literature from 1500 to 1700. Looking at a wide range of literature including poetry, prose and drama, students will consider the relationship between literary debate and form on the one hand, and political change, social identity and religious transformation on the other. We will consider how important debates surrounding political, social, gender and religious identity inflect and are reflected in the literature of the period, including works by Baldwin, Shakespeare, Donne, Lanyer, Marvell, Milton, Katherine Phillips, Behn and Pepys. Students will explore the boundaries of the literary canon, encountering pamphlets, petitions, sermons and conduct books, for example and consider the ways in which literary and non-literary texts both mirror and influence culture and society.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

The module will be taught by ten weekly two-hour seminars and ten weekly one-hour lectures. In addition, there will be at least one study-trip to, for example, Canterbury Cathedral archives, the British Library or Penshurst.

Method of assessment

50% coursework: seminar performance (20%), 2,500 word close reading essay (40%), 2,500 word essay (40%); 50% examination - 3-hour paper

Preliminary reading

Primary sources:
Thomas More, Utopia (1516)
William Baldwin, Beware the Cat (1561)
Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene (1590)
John Donne, selected poetry and prose
Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611)
Andrew Marvell, selected poetry
John Milton, Paradise Lost (1674)

Most texts will be provided in a Module Handbook; all other texts can be found in The Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume 2: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century, ed. Black, Conolly, Flint and Grundy, 2nd edn (Broadview, 2010)

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following subject specific learning outcomes:

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

On successful completion of this module students will be able to demonstrate the following generic learning outcomes:

• develop their abilities to analyse texts critically and make comparisons across a range of reading
• develop their command of written and spoken English and their abilities to articulate coherent critical arguments
• understand and interrogate various critical approaches and the theoretical assumptions that underpin these approaches
• develop their abilities to carry out independent research
• develop their presentational skillsto present an argument orally, how to defend that argument, and how to use responses to refine ideas.

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