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SEL3444 : Envious Show: Wealth, Power and Ambition in Narratives of the Country House, 1550-2000

  • Offered for Year: 2024/25
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Ruth Connolly
  • Lecturer: Dr Stacy Gillis, Professor Annie Tindley, Dr Sarah Collins
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
  • Capacity limit: 64 student places

Your programme is made up of credits, the total differs on programme to programme.

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0
European Credit Transfer System


The module traces the history and impact of the country house and estate in Britain and Ireland over five hundred years. This interdisciplinary module will consider how the country house forms a crucible in which ideologies of gender, race and class intersect with money, power and ambition. The country house's economic, political and cultural impact will be analysed using a diverse range of genres including but not limited to poetry, the eighteenth-century novel, estate papers, the boy's adventure story, tourist guides, the detective story, the crime novel and the Gothic memoir. Students will also study the history and fabric of a specific country house through estate papers and a field trip.

Outline Of Syllabus

An indicative syllabus might include the following topics:

1) Renaissance Women and their Houses: The lifewritings of Bess of Hardwick and Lady Anne Clifford
2) The Children of the Country House: The country house poetry of Ben Jonson, Amelia Lanyer and Andrew Marvell
3) Tourism, Travel and the Ecology of the Country House: Castle Howard
4) Sugar, Slavery and Empire: Jane Austen, Mansfield Park
5) The Highland Clearances and Historical Fiction: James Loch, An Account of the Improvements on the Estates of the Marquess of Stafford and Iain Crichton Smith, Consider the Lillies.
6) The Scottish Country House and the Boy's Adventure Story: Robert Louis Stevenson, Kidnapped
7) Country house Gothic and detective fiction: Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles
8) The Irish country house and the Gothic memoir: Caroline Blackwood, Great Granny Webster

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:3018:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion164:0064:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading801:0080:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching121:3018:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork110:0010:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery22:004:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity120:306:00peer-led seminar preparation work
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures introduce students to the historical context and theoretical perspectives needed to interpret each of the texts or sources.
Small group seminars enable a detailed focus on these sources that support students in developing their understanding and interpretations of those texts.
Scheduled student-led preparatory sessions allow students to share their findings from lectures and reading with their peers and build a strong foundation for seminar discussion.
A field-trip will enable students to ground their studies of the country house in the text with the analysis of the layout and architecture of a significant country house.
2 x 2-hour drop-ins will be scheduled to deliver additional consultation hours for students at assessment times.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Portfolio1M40Choice of written or spoken assessment. Students taking the presentation option may opt to submit a video of their presentation if a live presentation (in-person or remotely) is not possible.
Written exercise1A60N/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A mid-module portfolio worth 40% of the marks available will focus on early modern material (16th, 17th and 18th century material). Students will choose between:
1) a 1500-word written analysis of a seventeenth or eighteenth-century source on the country house and/or its landscape and estate or
2) a 15-minute presentation analysing a specific aspect of the early modern country house and/or its landscape and estate.

This will enable a close engagement with earlier period sources and provide a strong foundation for understanding the origins and development of the country house in the early modern period. This assessment allows for student choice and expands the range of skills students can demonstrate in their assessments.

An end of module assessment of 2500 words, worth 60% of the mark available, will assess students' overall understanding and develop their intellectual independence whilst supporting student choice and interests.

Students can choose between:
1. Writing a critical essay based on a self-created question
2. Creating a public-facing guide (print or online using Shorthand) to a country house and its relationship to one of the module themes (race, gender, class, ecology)
3. Composing a creative response to a source, text or object encountered on the module.

Reading Lists