SEL2201 : Writing the Renaissance

  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ruth Connolly
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


What is Renaissance writing? And how should we read it? This module will introduce you to canonical Renaissance authors – Shakespeare, Jonson, Marlowe, Spenser, Milton – and to less familiar figures, and asks what makes their writing so distinctive. Renaissance writers translate, imitate, and sometimes plagiarise classical, medieval and contemporary works and through this textual dialogue they fashion many of the genres we now recognise as central to ‘English Literature’. This intertextual creativity and communication is the theme of the module. To understand it, we will explore a wide range of genres and writers, read them comparatively, and practice the techniques Renaissance writers used to compose these works - most notably, ‘commonplacing’.

Outline Of Syllabus

Outline of Syllabus

This list of texts is indicative of the module’s intended scope both chronologically and in terms of the genres covered. The texts may change from year to year, and, in particular, the works by Shakespeare will be subject to review as the module will incorporate a link with the RSC’s productions whenever possible.

Week 1: What is the Renaissance?

Week 2: Sir Thomas Malory, Morte d'Arthur (Course Reader)

Week 3: Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book 1

Week 4: John Milton, Paradise Lost Books 1 and 2

Week 5: William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Week 6: Rowley, Dekker & Ford, The Witch of Edmonton

Week 7: Thomas Middleton, The Changeling

Week 8: Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander

Week 9: John Lyly, Galatea

Week 10: Ben Jonson, Volpone

Week 11: William Shakespeare, The Comedy of Errors

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion144:0044:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity110:0010:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study130:0030:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The Learning Outcomes are intended to illustrate that texts in this period are read in dialogue with one another, and are intended to encourage discussion, analysis and debate among their readers. By co-teaching lectures and by examining texts comparatively, that dialogue is embedded into the course structure.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A803,000 words
Written exercise1M20Commonplace Book and Critical Reflection (1,000 words)
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The submission of a portfolio of an essay and the commonplace book, with a short critical reflection on the compilation of the commonplace book is intended to concentrate attention on the processes of organising and communicating arguments effectively, the principle which underpins all critical writing. The use of a commonplace book as an aid to writing is characteristic of the education of Renaissance students and by introducing this method in a course on Renaissance literature, students gain a unique, practical insight into how Renaissance authors composed their texts and presented their arguments.

It may be that a student will only fail one component and that component would be the only one to be repeated.

Reading Lists


Disclaimer: The University will use all reasonable endeavours to deliver modules in accordance with the descriptions set out in this catalogue. Every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information, however, the University reserves the right to introduce changes to the information given including the addition, withdrawal or restructuring of modules if it considers such action to be necessary.