BA Latin and English Literature / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Apocalypse: Early Modern Imaginings

Course unit fact file
Unit code ENGL31272
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? No


Belief in an imminent apocalypse was widespread in early modern England. Through the study of visual texts, prophecies, sermons, political works and the Bible alongside drama and literature, this course explores the apocalyptic imagination of the era. In a culture overshadowed by expectations of apocalypse, how do literary texts respond to this threat? In what ways are representations of the natural world as well as depictions of social and political life shaped by notions of approaching catastrophe? Illuminating the specific contours of early modern apocalypticism, the course will also bring early modern representations of apocalypse into conversation with twenty-first century critical thought, including ecocriticism. As Lawrence Buell states, apocalypse is ‘the single most powerful master metaphor that the contemporary environmental imagination has at its disposal’. As well as discussing the relevance of apocalyptic thought for early modern constructions of the world, this course will also illuminate the role played by apocalyptic representations in ‘the contemporary environmental imagination’.


The aims of this course are:

- to introduce students to early modern apocalyptic thought and writing

- to analyse the ways in which early modern literary texts interact with their cultural, theological and historical contexts;

- to analyse representations of apocalypse and catastrophe in early modern literary texts;

- to engage with selected critical writings on apocalypticism, ecocriticism and early modern literature and drama

- to develop skills of critical thought, speech, and writing in relation to early modern representations of catastrophe and apocalypse

- to develop oral presentation skills through presentations developed and delivered in groups

- to encourage independent research skills through the requirement to identify and research archival material for the oral presentation

Teaching and learning methods

This class will have a 1 hour lecture and a 2 hour seminar each week.


Students will also learn via an independent research project, in which they will identify an early modern text relating to apocalyptic thought (eg a sermon, a visual image, a political treatise) in the John Rylands Library or on the Early English Books Online database. They will give a short presentation on this text to their seminar group.


Materials including lecture slides, bibliographies and links to wider resources will be posted on Blackboard each week. 

Knowledge and understanding

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- demonstrate familiarity with a range of early modern literary texts and their contexts;

- demonstrate an understanding of apocalyptic thought in relation to early modern literature

- identify and contextualise archival material relating to the apocalypse

- demonstrate an understanding of early modern literature in relation to contemporary critical debates

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

- analyse course texts in a critical manner

- identify and outline key issues in early modern apocalyptic thought

- synthesize and analyse information about early modern apocalyptic representation

- develop and articulate a reasoned argument in relation to early modern literature and culture

Practical skills

- plan and execute independent research on early modern apocalyptic writing

- make good use of library, electronic, and online resources pertaining to the course;

- speak and write clearly about early modern literature in relation to apocalypse and catastrophe

- deliver an oral presentation introducing an early modern archival text

Transferable skills and personal qualities

- retrieve, sift, organise, synthesise and critically evaluate material from a range of different sources, including library, electronic, and online resources.

- deliver an oral presentation in front of a seminar group

- produce written work using appropriate language for an academic audience;

- produce written work that collects and integrates evidence to formulate a critical argument.

Employability skills

Logical thought; good oral and written communication skills, resourcefulness in the ability to gather, interpret, analyse and evaluate critical sources; time management skills; articulacy and presentation skills through the use of class presentations, seminar discussions and debate; independent research skills. This course enhances employability by encouraging students and identify and understand a range of different viewpoints and critical approaches to historical and literary material.

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 30%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Essay 1 (30%)

Essay 2  (60%)

Feedback methods

Feedback method –

Formative or Summative

Numerical grade and written comments on essays within 15 working days


One on one meeting in office 1 week after presentation

formative and summative



Recommended reading

Primary texts as listed above in weekly schedule.

Recommended secondary reading includes:

C.A. Patrides and Joseph A. Wittreich (eds) The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature (1984)

Adrian Streete, Apocalypse and Anti-Catholicism in Seventeenth-Century English Drama (2017)

Todd Borlik, Ecocriticism and Early Modern English Literature (2010)

Todd Borlik, Literature and Nature in the English Renaissance: An Ecocritical Anthology (2017)

Lawrence Buell, The Environmental Imagination (1995)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 1
Seminars 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 197

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Naomi Baker Unit coordinator

Return to course details