Renaissance and Revolution (EAS2080)

StaffDr Jo Esra - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module introduces students to English literature during one of the most violent, turbulent period of English history. The module covers the literary culture of the courts of James I, Charles I and the restored court of Charles II, as well as literary reactions to the outbreak of war, the execution of the king and the rule of Oliver Cromwell. We will read the work of major writers of the period, such as Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton and Aphra Behn, and also look at the writings of prophets and visionaries, satirists and libertines. Central themes include monarchy and the display of power, the emergence of the woman writer, changing attitudes towards sexuality and the body, representations of the countryside. Students 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 represented those conflicts.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific seventeenth-century authors and texts;
  • 2. demonstrate an informed appreciation of seventeenth-century literary history;
  • 3. demonstrate an informed appreciation of the relation between seventeenth-century literature and important historical and intellectual developments of the time;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 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 texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual 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

  • 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;
  • 10. through sitting their final examination, demonstrate proficiency in the use of memory and in the development, organization, and expression of ideas under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

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. There is a compulsory 2 hour research-based workshop in week 7. 

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 Activities 16lectures (16 x 1 hr)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 22seminars (11 x 2 hrs)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 2workshop (1 x 2 hrs)
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities 1Revision lecture (1x 1hr)
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
Annotated BibliographyInformal group presentation / 10-15 mins. Students will be required to compile an annotated bibliography in study groups, and informally present findings in the seminar. 1-6, 8-9Immediate tutor and peer feedback, supplemented by feedback sheet 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
Essay452000 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Exam452 hours1-6, 8-10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Seminar 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
EssayEssay1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-6, 8-10Referral/deferral period
Seminar ParticipationRepeat Study or mitigation 7, 9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

Primary texts 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)


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Key words search

English, Literature, Renaissance, Early Modern, Revolution