Bodies Politic: Cultural and Sexual Politics in England, 1603-1679 (EASM109)

StaffDr David Parry -
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15.00
NQF Level7
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to explore the interactions between politics, culture and representations of gender and the body during one of the most turbulent periods in English history. It pays particular attention to the histories of the social body and the subject's body as inscribed and represented in literary discourse. Starting with the sexual politics of the early Stuart monarchs (James I and Charles I) and their courts, it also covers the representation of the divided subject in civil war; the development of a republican body politic during the 1650s; the cult of sexual license in Restoration culture; the relationship between the subject's body and the divine in elite and popular cultures; and the impact of developments in

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate advanced critical knowledge and understanding of the key social, intellectual and political issues in seventeenth-century English culture
  • 2. Demonstrate an advanced appreciation of modern theoretical debates surrounding the interpretation of these issues
  • 3. Demonstrate an advanced capacity to identify the complex relations between literary production and the social, economic, political and cultural developments of the period
  • 4. Demonstrate an intellectually sophisticated ability to apply this knowledge to the analysis of seventeenth-century texts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Demonstrate an intellectually sophisticated ability to analyse the literature of the seventeenth century, and to relate its concerns and modes of expression to its historical context
  • 6. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to relate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline to wider issues of cultural and intellectual history.
  • 7. Demonstrate an advanced and autonomous ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to literary texts.
  • 8. Demonstrate an advanced and precise ability to work from the detail of literary texts, with a full appreciation of their formal aspects.
  • 9. Demonstrate an advanced ability to digest, select, and organise interdisciplinary material and to trace the development of debate across disciplinary boundaries.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 10. Through seminar work and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to articulate their views convincingly both individually and in groups
  • 11. Through essay-writing, demonstrate advanced research and bibliographic skills, an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and to write clear and correct prose.
  • 12. Through research for seminars, essays, and presentations demonstrate an advanced proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 13. Through research, seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process.
  • 14. Through responses to constructive feedback, demonstrate an advanced and intellectually mature ability to reflect upon and strengthen written and other work.

Syllabus plan

1. Kingship, gender and witchcraft: the sexual politics of James I

2. Corruption and the Jacobean court

3. The flesh and the spirit: the politics and poetics of devotional poetry

4. Utopia, science and the body

5. Masquing the body: sexual politics in the Caroline court

6. Research seminar

7. Sexuality, heresy and the early Milton

8. The body politic, beheaded: responses to the regicide in poetry and prose

9. Pleasure and utopia in the Restoration

10. Sexual freedom and the Restoration court

11. Libertinism and the woman writer

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 activities22seminars
Guided independent100seminar preparation (independent)
Guided independent178reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Abstract500 words1-8, 12-14Feedback via seminars and 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
Research report 252500 words1-4, 12-14Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay755000 words1-14Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Research reportResearch Report1-4, 12-14Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay1-14Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading

William Shakespeare, Macbeth (any modern ed.) Martin Wiggins (ed.), Four Jacobean Sex Tragedies (Oxford, 1998)

Susan Bruce (ed.), Three Early Modern Utopias (Oxford, 1999)

Deborah Payne Fisk (ed.), Four Restoration Libertine Plays (Oxford, 2005)

Katherine Eisaman Maus (ed.), Four Revenge Tragedies (Oxford, 1998)

John Milton, The Major Works, ed. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg (Oxford, 1997)


Secondary Reading

Warren Chernaik, Sexual Freedom in Restoration England, paperback ed. (Cambridge, 2008)

Thomas Corns, A History of Seventeenth-Century English Literature (Oxford, 2006)

Derek Hirst, England in Conflict, 1603-1660 (Hodder, 1999)

John Morrill (ed.), The Impact of the English Civil War (Collins and Brown, 1991)

David Norbrook, Writing the English Republic (Cambridge, 1999)

Graham Parry, The Seventeenth Century: The Intellectual and Cultural Contexts of English Literature, 1603-1700 (Longmans, 1989)

Jonathan Sawday, The Body Emblazon'd: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (Routledge, 1996)

R.M. Smuts, Culture and Power in England 1585-1685 (Palgrave Macmillan, 1999)

K. Wrightson, English Society, 1580  1680, 2nd ed. (Routledge, 2002)

Reading for week 1 William Shakespeare, Macbeth. Copies of James Is Daemonologie and contemporary witchcraft pamphlets will be circulated to students before the start of the module.

Module has an active ELE page?


Available as distance learning?


Last revision date

October 2011

Key words search

Early modern literature, politics, religion, gender, body, science, civil war, monarchy, republicanism