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BA Art History and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Renaissance Literature

Unit code ENGL21151
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course introduces a variety of different modes of writing from the English Renaissance, including drama, prose and poetry, and their cultural and historical contexts. It is structured around four key themes, each of which highlights an area of keen concern in the writing of the era as well as in recent critical approaches to Renaissance literature and culture: ‘religion and identity, travel and colonialism, women and authorship, science and humanism, and city and country’.  The course therefore offers an introduction to some of the most innovative theoretical and critical readings of Renaissance literature and culture as well as to a broad range of texts from this era.


 • To introduce a range of different forms of writing from the Renaissance period, including drama, poetry and prose 

• To equip students to analyse literary texts from this period in relation to their historical and cultural context and in relation to critical and theoretical debates 

• To encourage independent readings of Renaissance texts, both canonical and lesser known 

• To encourage oral presentation skills through the use of student presentations and seminar discussions 

• To develop skills in written expression and the presentation of a coherent argument at a level appropriate to second-year undergraduate degree work 


Please see recommended reading.

Knowledge and understanding

 By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate an understanding of a range of texts from the English Renaissance
  • discuss Renaissance texts in detail in relation to their cultural and historical contexts as well as in relation to current critical and theoretical debates

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • understand and analyze a range of English Renaissance texts
  • engage critically with secondary material and critical debates

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

  • identify and locate relevant primary and secondary material
  • present written work in an appropriate form
  • deliver a coherent oral presentation
  • participate in group discussions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • present a coherent written argument
  • put forward independent ideas in group discussions and in oral presentations
  • introduce unfamiliar material to a wider audience

Employability skills

The course will enhance skills in critical analysis, textual analysis and the ability to formulate and defend an argument in front of a group. It will refine communication skills, both written and oral.

Assessment methods

Close reading exercise 40%
Essay 60%


Feedback methods

  • Oral feedback on group presentation
  • Written feedback on critical introduction and essay
  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)

Recommended reading

We recommend you concentrate on reading the primary texts before the start of the course. We will be concentrating on the following texts:


Week 1: Christopher Marlowe – Dr Faustus
Week 2: Ben Jonson – Epicoene
Week 3: Amelia Lanyer – Poems from Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum
Week 4: Isabella Whitney – A Sweet Nosegay 
Week 5: Mary Wroth and Philip Sidney – Sonnets 
Week 7: Margaret Cavendish – The Blazing World 
Week 8: John Milton – Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 2 
Week 9: John Milton – Paradise Lost, Books 1 and 2
Week 10: Thomas More – Utopia 
Week 11: John Fletcher – The Island Princess 
Week 12: Aphra Behn – Oronooko 


There are no set editions for the course, but there will be recommendations on Blackboard or feel free to contact the Course Unit Director for advice. The poems and essays will be circulated via Blackboard.


Two good introductions to the literature and culture of the period are the chapter on the Renaissance by Andrew Hiscock in English Literature in Context, ed. by Paul Poplawski (Cambridge University Press, 2008) and Jason Scott-Warren, Early Modern English Literature (Polity, 2005).



Study hours

Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Jerome De Groot Unit coordinator

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