SEL3393 : The Renaissance Entertainment Industry: authorship on the stage and page, 1550-1620

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The English Renaissance is often seen as a golden age of literature, symbolised by the drama of William Shakespeare. It was also a time when entertainment was becoming commercialised, with the first permanent playhouses appearing on the outskirts of London, and printed ballads, romances, and play-texts being sold across Britain. In this module, we will examine the emergence of the professional author within the material conditions of the Renaissance stage and the page, with an archival trip to see early printed books up close, and a film viewing of a Shakespeare play at the Globe. We will be examining both canonical writers like Philip Sidney and William Shakespeare, and lesser known figures like Thomas Nashe and Isabella Whitney, and the processes by which their writing became famous or forgotten. We will also be exploring the plethora of digital resources for studies in the early modern period, which have made under-explored texts available in newly interactive ways. During this module, we will trace Elizabethan fan-fiction, create a social-network of Renaissance authors, remix a poetic miscellany, and perform our own anti-theatrical controversy.

By the end of the module, students will be expected to:
• Demonstrate an understanding of selected early modern literary texts and their historical context
• Interpret primary and secondary texts critically with reference to debates about theatrical and print authorship.
• Conduct and demonstrate independent thought and research in the selection and analysis of texts.
• Demonstrate an awareness of digital resources, and be able to use them to conduct research

Outline Of Syllabus

1. The Entertainment industry. Why is this period considered the ‘golden age’ of literary authorship? The Parnassus Plays (anon).
2. The stage & collaborative writing. How were plays written and performed in the Elizabethan period? Henslowe’s diary. (Plus film night.)
3. Roaming entertainers. What do we know about entertainment outside of London in this time? William Shakespeare.
4. The page and authorial personae. How did the growth of cheap print affect the fame of writers? John Lyly. (Plus archive visit.)
5. Anti-theatrical writing. Why was popular fiction considered dangerous in the Renaissance? Anti-theatrical pamphlets.
6. Revision lecture
7. Poetic miscellanies. What is ‘the stigma of print’? Philip Sidney & his editors.
8. Writing for money. Who were the first celebrity writers? Robert Greene.
9. Monuments to Fame. Why is paper a paradoxical material? Thomas Nashe.
10. Gender and publication. Is there such a thing as a female author in the Renaissance? Isabella Whitney.
11: Plays in print. What happens when a play moves from being performed to being read? William Shakespeare.
12. Revision lecture

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion130:0030:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading180:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching102:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork23:006:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:3013:30N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study138:3038:30N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will introduce the students to key literary texts and historical and critical paradigms on the course. The seminars will allow students to examine literary texts and historical documents more closely, and to develop their interpersonal communication and analytical skills. Students will also be able to use seminars to explore digital resources to aid their independent research. Study groups will give students an opportunity to test out their ideas, and to collaborate on creative responses to the course material. The course will include two practical examples of print and drama of the period, via a film from the reconstructed ‘Globe’ theatre, and a visit to the Robinson library archives.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1M201,000 word essay
Essay1A803,000 word essay
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Prof skill assessmnt1MActive participation in course exercises
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-term essay (1,000 words) will allow students to demonstrate their ability to engage with one or more critical positions in the field of early modern scholarship, which they will have encountered in the first half of the module. Students will have the opportunity to receive oral and written feedback on this essay, before they begin on their end of term essay.

The end-term essay (3,000 words) will allow students to demonstrate their understanding of how changes to the cultural context of authorship discussed over the course of the module had an impact on selected literary texts. This will be an opportunity for the student to connect detailed analysis of their chosen literary text with the module’s broader thematic design.

The students will also be formatively assessed over the course of the module, through group exercises which will allow individuals to develop a creative and critical interpretation of a range of early modern texts.Students will get the opportunity to receive oral feedback on formative assessment in weeks 6 & 12 of the course.

Reading Lists