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2022/23 Taught Postgraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL5700M Writing, Archives, Race

30 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Dr Alison Searle

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

This module is not approved as an Elective

Module summary

This module will introduce students to the archive as a practical and theoretical concept. It uses the broad category of ‘writing’ to embrace the creative practices of a wide range of individuals across the early modern British Atlantic whose letters, autobiographies, confessions, accounts, wills, recipes, plays, novellas, and political pamphlets were preserved in diverse material forms. Students will be introduced to these writings held in Special Collections at the Brotherton Library, or accessed electronically through British Online Archives, Early English Books Online, and Early Modern Letters Online. Seminars will cover the following issues: the provenance of early modern manuscripts and printed books or pamphlets; the politics of preservation and how it shapes interpretation; the relationship between writing as a practice and ‘literature’ as a value judgement; the importance of integrating historical, aesthetic, cultural, and political elements when contextualising and interpreting early modern writing; the ethical and textual roles played by editors, archivists, and academics in mediating early modern writing for contemporary readers.


This module explores the relationships between the act of writing, how such writings in a variety of genres are materially embodied, and the ways in which they have been preserved and are made available to contemporary readers. It focuses on the early modern British Atlantic, where imperialism, commerce, missionary endeavours, and the slave trade had a profound impact on who could write, the genres they used, and how their writing was evaluated in political, ethical, and aesthetic terms. Students will be equipped to critically assess the role of archives and editing in mediating these writings, the implications for how ‘literature’ as a category is established, and what it means for our interpretation of these complex textual artefacts preserved in a range of material forms.

Learning outcomes
1. To explore the diverse forms of writing produced in Britain, North America, and the Caribbean during the early modern period, in the context of transatlantic commerce, imperialism, missionary activity, and the slave trade.
2. To engage with the wide range of genres and material forms utilised by writers in this period recognising the diverse aesthetic, political, cultural, and religious imperatives that motivated and shaped the production of literature.
3. To understand and evaluate the role played by the archive practically and theoretically and to trace its implications for the ways in which writing from the early modern period has been preserved, interpreted, and accessed.
4. To interrogate the roles of the editor/scholar/archivist in mediating these texts for a contemporary readership.

Skills outcomes
- Archival skills
- Palaeography
- Handling of rare materials
- Documentary editing

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 interrogates writing as an activity practised across a range of genres including poetry, letters, drama, and novellas and using a variety of material forms such as manuscripts, printed books and pamphlets, and textiles. Focusing on transatlantic archives from the early modern period it may explore the following questions:
- Who was able to write and how did they do so?
- What social, historical, and institutional factors shape the writings that have survived today? Whose voices have been excluded from the archives? Why?
- Is it possible to recover them by reading against the archival grain? - How do archival practices influence who can access these writings and the manner in which they are interpreted?
- In what ways have imperial commerce, missionary activity, and the development of racial slavery impacted writing, its transmission, preservation, interpretation, and the emergent category of ‘literature’ in the early modern British Atlantic?

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Reading of primary texts and the relevant critical literature in preparation for weekly seminars (180 hours); developing

familiarity with the historical, contextual, and theoretical concepts and literature necessary to prepare either a creative and/or

critical scholarly edition of an early modern archival text or to write a critical essay (100 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

One unassessed essay or annotated editorial transcript of approximately 1000 words

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayOne assessed essay of 4000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

One unassessed essay or annotated editorial transcript of approximately 1000 words

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 05/09/2022 14:35:56


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