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2020/21 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5836M Turks, Moors, and Jews: Staging the Exotic in the Renaissance

30 credits

Module manager: Dr José A. Pérez Díez

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Pre-requisite qualifications

As for MA programme

Module replaces


This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

Students will acquire detailed and critical knowledge of twelve English plays from 1580-1625, that deal with European enterprise in the Mediterranean and explore the ideology of trade and empire, by focusing on encounters with Jews, Moors, Turks, and other Arabic nations whose cultural difference challenges or reinforces the dominant European world-view.


This module explores the representation of non-European peoples in selected plays and court masques by early modern English writers. It focuses on their stereotyping of alien races and the scandalous behaviour attributed to them, such as atheism, violence, and the unrestrained pursuit of wealth, power, and sex. It explores the social, political, and economic anxieties that gave rise to these stereotypes, and the process of national and global self-definition to which they contributed. By looking at plays set on the margins of Europe, it explores how definitions of self and other, home and alien were being negotiated and redefined in this period. Through studying the way that the theatres staged values and customs radically different from those of the home culture, it aims to understand how the literary texts recognized, processed and managed the impact of economic change.

Learning outcomes
Students will
• Examine the representation of national and ethnic differences in the early modern period.
• Understand how early modern drama works to stage and interrogate the values associated with different societies and communities.
• Gain an understanding of debates about race, religion, and national identity as they occurred during the early modern period.
• Demonstrate an ability to engage critically with current debates in early modern studies around politics, sexuality, literary form and the relationships between them.

Skills outcomes
Literary analysis.

Masters (Taught), Postgraduate Diploma & Postgraduate Certificate students will have had the opportunity to acquire the following abilities as defined in the modules specified for the programme:
- the skills necessary to undertake a higher research degree and/or for employment in a higher capacity;
- evaluating their own achievement and that of others;
- self direction and effective decision making;
- independent learning and the ability to work in a way which ensures continuing professional development;
- to engage critically in the development of professional/disciplinary boundaries and norms.


This module studies the representation of the peoples and cultures of the Mediterranean and Middle East in English drama 1588-1630. The expansion of English trade into the orient, the impact of new luxury goods, and the creation of a global marketplace ensured that geographically remote locations became an intrinsic part of the Renaissance cultural imaginary. The drama of this period began to fill up rapidly with representations of non-European peoples, and to focus on plots of Machiavellian ambition, sexual predation, piracy, and religious apostasy which articulated the anxieties attendant on the origins of empire. The drama's preoccupation with margins and ethnic difference bespeaks the fears and fascinations of its time, as the nation re-visioned itself in relation to new global perspectives, in which English identity was both affirmed and challenged by its encounters with the 'other'.

We shall look at plays and masques by Marlowe, Shakespeare, Jonson, Massinger, and others which deploy the stereotypes of the greedy Jew, the lustful Turk, and the passionate Moor in order to explore religious, cultural, and gender differences. We end with John Fletcher's The Island Princess, a play which extends these concerns to the spice islands of the Far East.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours280.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)300.00

Private study

Students will study a single play or pair of plays per week, and will be required to familiarize themselves with the extensive critical literature associated with them and with the topic of imperial expansion in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

One unassessed essay of 2,000 words

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayOne 4,000 word essay100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 15/09/2020


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