English and drama

Period of Literature: 1500-1625

Module code: Q3131
Level 5
30 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

In this module you will examine literature from the reigns of Henry VIII to James I. The volume, variety and quality of writing produced in this period are astonishing. The 16th century saw the impact of an unprecedented expansion of England's capital city, which produced a thriving environment for professional writing, prompting the birth of commercial theatre in London and a flourishing book trade.

You will consider how literature came to be produced historically, looking at writing in its cultural setting with the help of visual texts such as paintings and architecture. You will address questions of literary history and theory, form and rhetoric within the network of institutions, practices and beliefs that constitute a culture as a whole. The module does not confine itself to major authors, but involves the consideration of appropriate themes and material drawn from various literary genres - drama, poetry and prose.

Topics explored include the rise of the commercial stage; sexualities and the transvestite stage; writing history; popular pamphlet culture; representations of the body; exploration and early colonialism; the sonnet; erotic writing; devotional writing; the city of London and money; religion; gender; death; representations of monarchy; the political stage; revenge tragedy; witchcraft and the birth of science.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the connections between literature, both dominant and marginal, and its social, cultural, intellectual and historical contexts.
  • Communicate effectively a critical and contextual understanding of the practice of literature in the period as exemplified in appropriate textual instances.
  • Assess and explain aspects of the relationship between the contexts of literature and developments in genre and representation.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of current reflections on and debates about the period of study.