Study Abroad and Exchanges



SEL3092 : The Early Modern Book Club (Inactive)

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


With the invention of printing in the Renaissance the silent reader was born. Or so we are told. The readers we tend to recover read much like us, skimming books, retrieving information, annotating. But what if this is only partly right? What if early modern children, women, and men routinely read to each other? Why might they have preferred reading aloud to silent reading? And how might we recover this practice given that, 500 years later, we can no longer 'hear' them? This module aims to recover what reading meant in the period 1500-1640, and how 'voicing' might change the way we think about writing.

This module aims to:

1. Evaluate the history of reading as a field of study;

2. Evaluate the evidence base for 'shared' reading;

3. Evaluate the role of the 'senses' in reading;

4. Explore how children learned to read 1500-1800 with 'phonics';

5. Assess how reading, silently or shared, is represented in a range of literary texts;

6. Explore how reading aloud informs literary style.

7. Invite you to think about how you read, how else you might read, and why reading matters!

Outline Of Syllabus

This module focuses on reading as a historical practice, and 'shared reading' or reading aloud especially. You will be introduced to some of the big debates: orality versus literacy; the invention of printing and its impact; education and mass literacy. You will also be asked to think about early modern books in some new ways. What does the printed page 'sound' like? Do we understand a book read to us differently to a book read silently. Do we 'get' rude jokes better if we read them out? What different histories of literature might we tell if we think about how texts sounded? Would we 'hear' a link between prose fiction and drama more readily if we were to listen? Your stories about reading matter as much as the histories of the book we will study. Your experiences of reading alone and / or silently, or to a friend or in a book club are on this syllabus too. Bring this experience with you!

All modes of writing are covered in this module: poetry, prose, domestic and public drama. In the last two weeks of the module we will revisit authors of your choosing (or particular sources) to develop a deeper understanding of their work. We will also experiment with ways of reading their work.

1. The History of Reading: An Introduction
2. Learning to Read in the Age of Print: Children’s Books
3. Getting Emotional: William Baldwin
4. Bare Reading: The Marprelate Controversy
5. Speaking in Voices: John Donne's Satires
6. Closet Drama: Women Reading Plays with Women
7. Dirty Jokes: John Harington and 'The Metamorphosis of Ajax'
8. The Sound of Prose: Thomas Nashe's 'The Unfortunate Traveller'
9. Drama and Performance: Shakespeare's 'Merry Wives'
10. Drama and Performance: Ben Jonson's 'Poetaster'
11. The Reading Marathon and Revision
12. The Reading Marathon and Revision

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion341:0034:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading801:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study381:0038:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures will be used to set out the contexts (social, historical, literary) and to introduce key literary texts and historical and critical paradigms. The longer 2 hour seminars will be used to test, develop and consolidate some of the ideas about reading introduced in the lectures, and to explore together new evidence and how it might change our reading of particular texts or genres of texts. We will carry out structured close reading exercises in dialogue with peers and practise reading together our key texts (our book club). In the student-led study groups discuss the texts as well as visual and aural evidence introduced in the lectures and test ideas and even ways of reading aloud texts in advance of the formal taught session. Students will have the opportunity to complete a mid-module short essay on which they will receive oral and written feedback.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Reflective log2A20N/A
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The 3,000 word essay will enable the student to demonstrate their understanding of the history of shared reading; it will also offer an opportunity for creative and critical interpretation of a range of early modern texts and their reception. The 1,000 word reflective log will enable the student to think about how they read and also to track how their understanding of reading changes over the course of the module. The 1000 word written exercise submitted for formative assessment mid-module will enable the student to check their progress and prepare for the end of module summative assessments.

Reading Lists