Beginnings: English Literature before 1800 (EAS1035)

StaffDr Elliot Kendall - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module will introduce students to these major literary texts. In doing so, it aims to cultivate modes of reading and critical analysis broadly informed by an attention to history and context. Such analysis will include ideas of subjectivity, identity, conflict, community, myth, the transmission of stories, storytelling, translation, transformation, and influence. This module will emphasise essay-writing skills that are fundamental to research and communication in English literature.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific texts, written from ancient times through to the end of the eighteenth century;
  • 2. demonstrate a knowledge of the early development of English literary history;

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. demonstrate a capacity to identify and analyse the relationships between specific texts and their cultural and historical contexts;
  • 4. demonstrate a basic ability to analyse pre-modern literature and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context;
  • 5. demonstrate a basic ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with wider issues of cultural and intellectual history;
  • 6. demonstrate a basic 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 basic communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups;
  • 8. through essay-writing and exam, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose;
  • 9. through research for seminars, essays and exam, demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan

1.      Stories of origin: extracts from Genesis and Gilgamesh

2.      Homer, The Odyssey

3.      Beowulf, tr. Seamus Heaney

4.     Marie de France, lays, tr Glyn S. Burgess, and Keith Busby

5.      Sir Gawain and Green Knight, tr.Bernard O'Donoghue

6.      Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander

7.      William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

8.      John Milton, Paradise Lost, books 1, 2, 4, 9

9.      Alexander Pope, The Rape of the lock

10.     Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels

11.     Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

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 Activities22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activities22Seminars
Guided independent study33study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study153reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay draft1000 words1-6, 8, 9Peer feedback and seminar discussion
Close Analysis500 words1, 3-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours 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
Exam652 hours1-6, 8, 9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up
Essay251000 words1-6, 8, 9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Seminar participation10Continuous1-7, 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
Exam2 hours1-6, 8, 9Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay 1000 words1-6, 8, 9Referral/deferral period
Seminar participationRepeat Study or Mitigation1-7, 9Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Reading:

The Odyssey of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimore (HarperCollins, 2007)

Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney, ed. Daniel Donoghue (Norton Critical Editions, 2000)

The Lais of Marie de France,ed and tr. Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby, 2nd edn (Penguin, 1999)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Bernard O’Donoghue (Penguin, 2006)

William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale, ed. Stephen Orgel (Oxford UP, 1998)

John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Gordon Teskey (Norton Critical Editions, 2005)

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels, ed. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (Oxford World’s Classics, 2008)

Alexander Pope, Selected Poetry, ed. Pat Rogers (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998)

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, ed. D.L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf (Broadview, 1999)


The excerpts from Genesis and Gilgamesh, and the poem by Marlowe, will be supplied via ELE.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

The module description, module reading pack, lecture lists, lecture materials, additional reading materials, useful web links and a discussion forum will be available via the Exeter Learning Environment

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Beginnings, literature, English