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SEL2201 : Renaissance Bodies

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Emma Whipday
  • Lecturer: Dr Kate De Rycker, Dr Ruth Connolly, Professor Jennifer Richards
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


The Renaissance ‘rebirth’ of intellectual and artistic activity across Western Europe gave rise to new genres, onstage and on the page. From the poetic epic to the Shakespearean tragedy, and from elite sonnets to popular printed prose, we will explore how writers aimed to stimulate the sensory experiences of their audiences. What did it feel like to be a body in Renaissance England? What did writers, readers, and audiences see, hear, touch, and smell? This module will trace how the rich and various genres of Renaissance literature imagine, represent, and affect the Renaissance body, in print, manuscript, and performance.

Outline Of Syllabus

Texts may change from year to year, but we will always have some tragedies and comedies by Shakespeare and two or three other playwrights. Epic is most likely to be represented by book 1 of Spenser’s Faery Queen and/or by two or three books of Milton’s Paradise Lost. Our prose choices will be taken usually from 'popular' print intended for a 'mass' audience.

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
Essay2A70EITHER a take home essay OR a creative portfolio (both 2,500 words)
Written exercise2M301,500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module assessment asks students to explain a pithy quotation from one of the set-texts and to show how it illuminates some aspect of that text. It helps students to use their close-reading and analytic-organisational skills, and asks them to think through the organisation of an argument based on close textual analysis. That prepares them to do better in the longer end-of-module assessment, which is a take-home essay paper.

The ‘creative portfolio’ offers an alternative to the essay paper. Students may choose from one of the following three options:
1) Design a programme for an imagined production based on one of the course plays, with accompanying explanation of rationale

2) Design an exhibition guide for an imagined exhibition inspired by one of the course texts with accompanying explanation of rationale

3) Write a series of short blog posts relating to different perspectives on/contexts for the course texts, with accompanying explanation of rationale

Reading Lists