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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL32998 Writing and Gender in Seventeenth-Century England

20 creditsClass Size: 30

School of English

Module manager: Dr Jane Rickard

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Module replaces

ENGL32144 - Writing Women in Seventeenth-Century England

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

How was the relationship between gender and speech or writing debated in seventeenth-century England? What opportunities were available to women as participants in literary culture? And how did male writers engage with their female counterparts? On this module we will explore how women wrote and were written across a range of literary genres, including plays, poetry, and polemic. We will encounter male authors such as Ben Jonson who did not simply represent women but scripted female performance, wrote for powerful female patrons, and examined gender (masculinity as well as femininity) as a social construct. We will meet female authors such as Rachel Speght, Emilia Lanier, and Aphra Behn who did not write in a separate "feminine sphere" but argued with men, challenged patriarchal narratives, and helped to shape literary convention and tradition. In the process, we will learn about the social and material conditions that affected writers of both genders in the Renaissance and Restoration periods. We will also consider why female writing has largely been left outside of the traditional literary canon and how this might have impoverished our understanding of seventeenth-century literary culture. Introducing a wide selection of writers and texts, many of them critically neglected, we will open up many opportunities for independent research beyond as well as on this module.


The module will introduce a range of female and male writers; cover a variety of literary genres, including plays, poetry, and prose; and span the seventeenth century. It will ask students to consider the critical and theoretical issues raised by study of the relationship between gender, writing, and reading. It will deepen understanding of the social and material conditions that affected all writers in this period.

Learning outcomes
Students will have learnt:
-about the varied roles that women played in the literary culture of seventeenth-century England
-about the different ways in which critics and theorists have understood the relationship between gender, writing, and reading
-about how critical neglect of women's writing has limited our understanding of seventeenth-century literary culture
-about the social and material conditions that affected all writers in early modern England and the key changes that occurred over the seventeenth century

Students will have developed skills in:
-analysing a diverse range of texts
-critical thinking
-independent research
-evaluating and responding sensitively to different viewpoints
- written and oral communication


On the module we will study a selection of plays, poems, and prose works by writers including Ben Jonson, Elizabeth Cary, Margaret Cavendish, Aphra Behn, Emilia Lanier, Katherine Philips, Rachel Speght, Joseph Swetnam, and Lady Mary Wroth.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Library Session11.001.00
Private study hours185.00
Total Contact hours15.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Teaching will be through 10 x 1 hour weekly seminars plus 4 x 1 hour lectures and 1 x 1 hour library workshop.

Private Study: Reading, seminar preparation, essay writing.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

- Seminar contribution.
- 1st assessed assignment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay2250 words50.00
Essay2250 words50.00
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: 29/04/2022 15:24:14


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