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2024/25 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2029 Renaissance Literature

20 creditsClass Size: 95

School of English

Module manager: Professor Michael Brennan

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2024/25

Pre-requisite qualifications

Grade B at 'A' Level in English Language or Literature or equivalent or an achieved mark of 56 or above in a Level 1 module in English.

This module is mutually exclusive with

ENGL2085Medieval and Tudor Literature

Module replaces


This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module studies the literature of the 16th and early 17th centuries, the period of the Tudors and early Stuarts. We read a selection of poetry and drama that represents the complexity of a world in transition between medieval and modern. This literature registers the impact of the printing press, a rapidly growing urban culture, a vibrant court society, an emerging commercial theatre, and upheavals driven by globalization, intellectual change, and revolutions in religious belief.


The module aims to convey the richness and diversity of Renaissance literature, and to explore its significance at a time when English readers were encountering fundamental challenges to their sense of inner identity and relationship to the wider world. These transformations were driven by the impact of the Reformation, by new humanistic thought, and by political and social divisions at home. We shall scrutinize a selection of poetry and drama in close detail, and study the historical contexts and intellectual crosscurrents, both domestic and European, that shaped the texts. This module will enable you to develop a nuanced understanding of the language of the chosen texts, and to understand the culture and ideas that affected them.

Learning outcomes
On completion of the module, students will:
1. Have acquired knowledge and understanding of a range of representative Renaissance texts;
2. Be able to read these texts in relation to their conditions of production and their historical and intellectual contexts;
3. Understand critical debates that have shaped their modern interpretation;
4. Write critically and in an informed way about the texts and their historical period.

Skills outcomes
- Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
- Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
- Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
- Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
- Critical reasoning.
- Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
- IT skills.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Independent learning.


The module explores cultural transformations affecting the whole period, and focuses particularly on the decades 1580-1630, which produced an astonishingly rich upsurge of literature. We look closely at a representative cross-section of key texts by major writers, studying 3 or 4 plays and selected works by 6 or 7 male and female poets. Authors studied may vary from year to year but typically include William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Philip Sidney, Ben Jonson, Amelia Lanier, John Webster, Mary Wroth, John Donne, and George Herbert.

Our texts engage with some of the besetting issues of a period experiencing fundamental social and ideological upheaval. We look at literature dealing with the private life of the individual (such as love poetry, and the poetry of religious faith); plays that address the worlds of the court, politics, and social justice; and satirical literature engaging with life in the city and the urban marketplace. Topics likely to arise include gender and sexuality; humanism and the 'good life'; rhetoric and the arts of language; the unsettling impact of the new science; the uncertainties of religious identity; the early modern theatre and its stagecraft. Through our texts we explore the multifarious ways that Renaissance writers voiced their experience of the radical and often stressful changes of their times.

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
EssayResearch exercise involving library resources (1 x 500 words)15.00
EssayComparative essay (1 x 3000 words)85.00
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: 11/06/2024 11:40:26


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