Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies


A selection of courses from the MA in Early Modern Literature and Culture.*

Literary Ruins and the Archive: Medieval to Modernity

This module explores the fragmentary nature of the materials through which we study the literary and cultural histories of England, engaging with both practical realities and a range of theoretical perspectives. Spanning medieval to modern England and beyond, we will focus on ruins and remnants, as well as notions of monument-making and reconstruction, by working with early materials; manuscripts, documents, and rare printed books. We will also think about the ways in which libraries, modes of book production, archiving, collecting, and curating shape meanings and interpretations of these materials and the periods to which they belong.

Structured around a series of case studies – including the Frewen Account book, the Cotton Library, seventeenth-century maps and medical texts – seminars will ask questions about periodization, book history, the archive, manuscript versus print, and digitization, as well as about reading and writing practices over time.

Uniquely, each seminar will draw upon local Sussex archives, including the University’s Travers collection, the East Sussex Record Office’s holdings (both housed in the newly opened Keep), and the Brighton Jubilee Library’s manuscripts and rare books collection. In conjunction with the seminars, a series of workshops and classes offer an exciting opportunity to learn specialist skills for working with manuscripts and early printed books, as well as for working in and with archives both physical and virtual. Students will therefore have the opportunity to work closely with the collections at the Keep, and to explore other local library collections and material ruins and remnants.

The Renaissance Body

In early modern England the body was a major intellectual preoccupation and a focal metaphor informing and shaping cultural structures and artefacts. This period, too, like the cusp of the 21st century, had a very distinctive conception of the person as a construct or artifice, as the product of social intervention and cultural organization. Engaging with interpretative models from the fascinating interdisciplinary field of cultural theory of the body, you will explore the aesthetics of embodiment through a range of literary and visual texts, unravelling the dense significance of the corporeal imagination of the Renaissance. Key themes include: body borders, the supernatural and society; gendered voices, sex and agency; the medical imagination; diabolic inversions (the witch's body); heroic and monstrous masculinities; transvestitism; mystical monarchy; diseased bodies; revolutionary corporealities; body, soul and mind; consuming bodies and eating communities; the fabricated body; and pornography.

Public Shakespeare

This course is designed to look at some less familiar aspects of Shakespeare’s career. The aim is to examine the plays in their historical contexts and to see whether the subsequent stage history of Shakespeare bears any relationship to the meanings the plays might have borne when Shakespeare wrote them. We will concentrate particularly on the public and political significance of the plays and, to a lesser extent, the poetry. Subjects that will be examined include: the representation of English, British and other histories in a variety of Shakespeare's poetry and plays; the political significance of Shakespeare's varying conceptions of national identity throughout his career, paying particular attention to questions of kingship and legitimacy; inheritance; rebellion; republicanism and other forms of government; virtue and rights; and the law.

Race and Colonialism in Early Modern English Literature

This course examines the relationship between English literature and the wider world in the Renaissance. You will consider ideas of race; the theory and practice of colonialism; new knowledge and how it was dealt with; religious conflict, doubt and change; strangers within and outside the realm; and the relationship between factual and fictional writing.

*Please note that actual courses offered in a particular year cannot be guaranteed; this list should not be considered definitive.