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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2096 The World Before Us: Literature 1660–1830

20 creditsClass Size: 63

School of English

Module manager: Jeremy Davies

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24

This module is mutually exclusive with

ENGL2095Other Voices: Rethinking Nineteenth-Century Literature

Module replaces

ENGL2026 - Restoration and Eighteenth Century WritingENGL2028 - Literature of the Romantic Period

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module introduces a diverse range of literature, from witty explorations of sex and gender to reflective Romantic poetry. You’ll study texts from three centuries in their cultural and historical context. This period saw the creation of a new nation, Britain; the rise of its empire; and the birth of a ‘modern’ society and economy. We’ll explore the radically innovative writing that arose in this new world, and reflected its anxieties and excitements.


‘The World Before Us’ aims to foster a historically informed and critically sophisticated appreciation of the literature of the ‘long eighteenth century’ (here, 1660–1830). It’s designed to be welcoming for students who are new or relatively new to the study of this period. Through lectures, regular small-group seminar discussion, and opportunities for written work and feedback, the module will enable you to read the period’s literature with care and attention, and to form nuanced interpretations of a diverse range of representative texts.

Learning outcomes
On successful completion of this module, you should be able to:
1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of a variety of literary texts written between 1660 and 1830;
2. Interpret those texts in relation to some key historical and cultural contexts;
3. Understand and engage with modern critical approaches to the period, preparing you for the option of independent research on the literature of this period at level 3;
4. Communicate accurate and nuanced readings of this period’s literature in fluent academic writing.


This module seeks to explore a selection of the main developments in British literature between 1660 and 1830. Major topics in the literature of the period, which may be studied during the module, include changes in the cultural construction of gender; empire and enslavement; the new economic and ecological basis of British society; the development of cities and commerce; the rise of the novel; the evolution of lyric and blank-verse poetic traditions; satirical and sentimental writing; religious and sceptical thought; science and philosophy; and new understandings of selfhood and personal identity.

The module’s title comes from John Milton’s Paradise Lost (1667), which ends with Adam and Eve’s expulsion from paradise. As they left Eden, the poem says, ‘the world was all before them.’ Like Milton’s Adam and Eve, this module aims to survey an expansive, troubled, and stimulating new world.

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours170.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Weekly dialogue in small-group seminars; opportunities for one to one meetings in tutors’ weekly support hours; opportunities to meet with departmental Writing Mentors; individual written feedback on mid-semester assignment.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
EssayCritique (1000 words)25.00
EssayEssay (2500 words)75.00
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: 13/03/2023


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