Literature, Culture, and Politics in Early Modern England: Sources (HIH3624)

StaffDr Freyja Cox Jensen - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Pre-requisitesAt least 90 credits of History at Level 1 and/or Level 2
Co-requisitesHIH3625 (Context)
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks; Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Over the course of the module, you will have the opportunity to develop your understanding of the classic canon of the English Literary Renaissance, so influential in shaping the development of English literature and culture ever since.  You will also develop an understanding of the political upheavals of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, which had a profound effect upon the way that the England is governed to this day.  This module will allow you to enhance your critical thinking skills, as you study the interrelationship of complex political, social, and religious factors, and it will provide you with the opportunity to engage with an interdisciplinary strand of research that is constantly changing, as scholars find new approaches to the study of the history of literature, and the history of the book.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop a detailed knowledge of the different sources available for the study of the literary and political history of early modern England, together with a very close specialist knowledge of those sources which the students focus upon in their seminar presentations and written work.
  • 2. Analyse the complex diversity of the sources studied.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Analyse closely original sources and to assess their reliability as historical evidence. Ability to focus on and comprehend complex texts.
  • 4. Understand and deploy relevant historical terminology in a comprehensible manner.
  • 5. Follow changes and continuities in the writing and publication of literary sources across the period.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Independently and autonomously study and also work within a group, including presentation of material for group discussion, developed through the mode of learning.
  • 7. Digest, select and organise material to produce, to a deadline, a coherent and cogent argument, developed through the mode of assessment.
  • 8. Present complex arguments orally

Syllabus plan

Among the themes we will study in this module are: the Court; humanism; nobility, honour and service; biography; literature and the nation; the production of books; the relationship between Christian and classical values; the role of women in printing, reading, and writing; early Stuart monarchy and the masque; the development of the history play; the relationship of the drama to politics and to Puritanism; the responses of writers to the Civil Wars.  We will read a wide variety of literary, and other, texts, including authors such as Skelton, More, Wyatt, Sidney, Spenser, Marlow, Shakespeare, Jonson, Bacon, Middleton, Massinger, Milton, Marvell, and others.

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 activities4422 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study256Reading and preparation for seminars, coursework and presentations

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Seminar discussionOngoing through course1-6, 8Oral from tutor and fellow students

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
Portfolio702 assignments totalling 4000 words1-7Verbal and written
Individual Presentation3020-30 minutes1-8Verbal and written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
PortfolioPortfolio1-7Referral/deferral period
PresentationWritten transcript of 20-minute presentation1-8

Re-assessment notes

The re-assessment consists of a 4,000 word portfolio of source work, as in the original assessment, but replaces the individual presentation with a written script that could be delivered in such a presentation and which is the equivalent of 20 minutes of speech.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Nearly all the following sources are available in their early modern form on EEBO (Early English Books Online), and we will discuss how to locate them in our first seminar.  You are encouraged to use the various early modern editions as much as possible, in order to understand the physical form and appearance of the books with which early modern readers interacted, and the changes between certain editions.  For ease of use, you may sometimes find it more convenient to use a modern printed edition; all the texts are available in modern editions.  It may be more important to be able to study an author closely than to have access to the best edition of his works, so you need not hesitate to use paperbacks or cheap editions for most purposes, provided that, at least in the case of authors on whom you wish to concentrate, you also consult the standard editions.  Some editions are very much better, and more helpful, than others; information on standard editions, and the better modern editions, will be made available on ELE well in advance of the course beginning.

  • Thomas More, Richard III; Utopia; The Dialogue of Comfort, Book 1.

  • John Skelton, Colin Clout; Why Come ye not to Court?; Magnificence.

  • Thomas Wyatt, The Complete Poems (ed. R. Rebholz, Penguin Books), nos. 11, 19, 28-30, 34, 42, 46, 49, 55, 60, 64, 68, 71, 73, 80, 85, 102, 123, 149-52.

  • Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey, Poems (ed. E. Jones, Oxford), nos. 27-33, 35, 48.

  • Philip Sidney, The Old Arcadia; An Apology for Poetry; Fulke Greville, The Life of Sir Philip Sidney.

  • Edmund Spenser , The Faerie Queene, Book V; Colin Clouts Come Home Again.

  • William Shakespeare, Richard II; Henry IV Part I; Richard III, Coriolanus; Julius Caesar.

  • Christopher Marlowe, Edward II; Dr Faustus

  • Philip Massinger, The Roman Actor; The Maid of Honour

  • Thomas Middleton, A Game at Chess .

  • Ben Jonson, Sejanus; Oberon; The Fortunate Isles; poems, in Herford and Simpson, Ben Jonson, vol. VIII (1947), or in Ben Jonson. Poems (Oxford Standard Authors, ed. I. Donaldson): Epigrams, nos. 14, 35, 91, 94-5, 102; The Forest, nos. 2-3; The Underwood, nos. 14, 44, 59, 62-4, 68, 76; Ungathered Verse, no. 34.

  • Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning , Book I; Essays (1625); J. Spedding, The Letters and the Life of Francis Bacon , iii. 103-27; iv. 116-26; v. 84-6, 176-91; vi. 27-56.

  • John Milton, Comus; Lycidas; Of Reformation; Areopagitica; The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates; sonnets: ‘On the Detraction which followed upon my Writing Certain Treatises’, ‘On the New Forcers of Conscience’, ‘On the Lord General Fairfax’, ‘To the Lord General Cromwell’, ‘To Sir Henry Vane the Younger’, ‘On the late Massacre in Piedmont’; The Ready and Easy Way (2nd edn.); Samson Agonistes.

  • Andrew Marvell, ‘To...Mr. Richard Lovelace’; ‘Upon the Death of the Lord Hastings’; ‘An Horatian Ode’; ‘Tom May’s Death’; ‘The Garden’; ‘Upon Appleton House’, ‘The Character of Holland’; ‘The First Anniversary’; ‘On the Victory Obtained by Blake’; ‘A Poem upon the Death of O.C.’; ‘The Last Instructions to a Painter’; The Rehearsal Transpros’d, part 1

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Early English Books Online

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Key words search

Literature, Politics, Tudor, Stuart, Shakespeare, Milton