English and drama

Period of Literature: 1625-1750

Module code: Q3133
Level 5
30 credits in autumn teaching
Teaching method: Lecture, Seminar
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

This module examines the literary production of the period from the autocratic reign of the Stuart king Charles I to the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution. At its centre lies the regicide of Charles I in January 1649 - an event T. S. Eliot argued still divided British political society 300 years later. Even now it is a matter of some controversy to refer to the period between 1642 and 1649 as a rebellion or as the English Revolution, and between 1649 and 1660 as the Commonwealth or else as the Interregnum. However it is described, the extraordinary 125 years covered by this module have some claim to be the decisive period in the creation of what we think of as modern politics.

It is also a period of astonishing literary creativity. This is true both in terms of the volume, variety and quality of writing produced, and in terms of radical innovations in styles, in readerships, and in media. This module will include the study of a wide range of poetry, prose and play-texts. At the same time, it will involve trying to understand how this writing came to be produced historically. In particular, it will be concerned with the social life of texts, placing literary artifacts within the network of institutions, practices and beliefs that constitute a culture as a whole.

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.