Food and Literature in Early Modern England (EAS3246)

StaffDr Ayesha Mukherjee - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module covers the English Renaissance, Civil Wars, and Interregnum (1580-1660) and aims to familiarise you with a range of texts, paintings, maps, and images that represented social, political, and cultural attitudes to food, and imagined remedies for food-related anxieties. Interdisciplinary developments in Food Studies – from anthropological, environmental, historical, and literary perspectives – have demonstrated creative ways of interpreting the pervasive presence of food in literature, which you will be encouraged to explore in an early modern context. You will develop research skills through work on conventional essays as well as distinctive group assignments and blog posts.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of the relevance of food in specific authors and works of the period 1580-1660
  • 2. demonstrate an informed appreciation of the literary and cultural approaches to understanding food-related issues in the early modern period, and their current relevance
  • 3. demonstrate an informed appreciation of the literary and cultural approaches to understanding food-related issues in the early modern period, and their current relevance

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate an advanced 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 advanced 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 advanced 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 and presentations, demonstrate advanced communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 8. through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, an advanced capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 9. through research for seminars, essays, and presentations, demonstrate advanced proficiency in the analysis of complex material and communication of ideas

Syllabus plan

Topics to be covered may include:

Section 1: Production and Distribution


Growing Food: Agricultural Discourses

Core Texts: Edmund Spenser, Shepherd’s Calendar, “December Eclogue”; Andrew Marvell, “Mower” poems.

Extracts and images: Thomas Tusser’s Husbandry; Hugh Platt’s Garden of Eden


Knowing Food: Scientific Discourses

Core Texts: John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book IV

Extracts and images: Medical and alchemical works (Moffet to Brooke)


Mapping Food: Geographical Discourses

CoreTexts: Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion, Book 1, Song 1 (Devon and Cornwall); Peter Mundy, Travels (England, Wales, India)

Maps, illustrations, digital media: Speed, Drayton, Harriot, Mundy


Buying and Selling Food: Commercial Discourses

Core Text: Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair

Extracts: historical documents on food import and markets


Section 2: Politics of Consumption



CoreTexts: Ben Jonson, Love’s Welcome (masque); Eleanor Davies, “Belshazzar’s Feast”

Paintings and images: Breughel, Battle of Carnival and Lent; from Bartolomeo Scappi, Opera


Focus on Assessment

Group presentations


Crimes and Riots

Core Text: William Shakespeare, Coriolanus

Extracts: Robert Greene (conny catching), John Reynolds, Robert Wilkins (Midlands Rising)



Core Texts: Gerrard Winstanley et al, True Levellers Standard Advanced; Abiezer Coppe, First Fiery Flying Roll

Illustrations: From radical pamphlets and anti-ranter pamphlets


Section 3: Imagining Remedies



Core Texts: Ben Jonson, “To Penshurst”; Robert Herrick, selected poetry

Food recipes: Hugh Platt, Delights for Ladies



Core Texts: William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1; Merry Wives of Windsor

Images: Picturing Falstaff - performance images


Waste and Recycling

CoreText: John Milton, Paradise Regained, Book 2 (Satan’s banquet)

Extract: from Thomas Nashe, Lenten Stuffe

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
Scheduled3311 x 2hr Seminars, 6 x 1hr lectures, 5 x 1hr workshops
Guided independent33study groups and presentation preparation
Guided independent70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent164reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method

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
Group presentation2015 minutes, 1-7, 9Oral feedback from tutor and peers in seminar, supplemented by feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up.
Blog post201000 words1-6, 8-9Online Feedback sheet with tutorial follow-up
Essay603500 words1-6, 8-9Online Feedback 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
Group presentationPresentation materials OR 1500 words essay1-7, 9Referral/deferral period
Blog postBlog post (1000 words)1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay (3500 words)1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:


Primary texts


Students must buy the following core texts in the editions mentioned below:


Ben Jonson, Bartholomew Fair, ed. Suzanne Gossett, Revels Student Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2000)

John Milton, The Major Works, ed. Stephen Orgel and Jonathan Goldberg (Oxford: OUP, 2008)

William Shakespeare, Coriolanus, ed. Peter Holland, Arden Shakespeare Third Series (Arden, 2013)

William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part 1, ed. David Scott Kastan, Arden Shakespeare Third Series (Arden, 2002)

William Shakespeare, Merry Wives of Windsor, ed. Giorgio Melchiori, Arden Shakespeare Third Series (Arden, 1999)


The following core texts are in the Norton Anthology of English Literature, 9th edition, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al (W.W. Norton and Company, 2012):


Robert Herrick, selected poetry

Ben Jonson, “To Penshurst”

 Andrew Marvell, “Mower” poems 


The following core texts and all additional extracts and images are provided on ELE:


Abiezer Coppe, First Fiery Flying Roll  

Eleanor Davies, “Belshazzar’s Feast”  

Michael Drayton, Poly-Olbion, Book 1, Song 1  

Robert Greene, selected conny catching pamphlet

Ben Jonson, Love’s Welcome (masque)

Edmund Spenser, Shepherd’s Calendar, “December Eclogue”  

Peter Mundy, Travels (England, Wales, India)

Satires by Joseph Hall, Ben Jonson

Gerrard Winstanley et al, True Levellers Standard Advanced  

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:


Early English Books Online:

Jonson’s Works (Cambridge Edition):

Spenser’s Works (Luminarium):

Milton’s Works (resource page):

Oxford Scholarship Online:


Early Modern Literary Studies:

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Selected critical reading


Appelbaum, Robert. Aguecheek’s Beef, Belch’s Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections: Literature, Culture, and Food Among the Early Moderns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

Goldstein, David B. Eating and Ethics in Shakespeare’s England. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Laroque, Francois. Shakespeare’s Festive World: Elizabethan Seasonal Entertainment and the Professional Stage. Trans. Janet Lloyd. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

McRae, Andrew. God Speed the Plough: The Representation of Agrarian England, 1500-1660. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Mukherjee, Ayesha. Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England. London and New York: Routledge, 2015.

Thirsk, Joan. Food in Early Modern England: Phases, Fads, Fashions, 1500-1760. London: Hambledon Continuum, 2006.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Food and literature, Renaissance, Civil War, England, Shakespeare, Jonson, Milton