Renaissance Literature

Module code: EN2020
Module co-ordinator: Professor Martin Dzelzainis

This module will introduce you to a variety of (non-dramatic) genres and to authors writing in the 16th and 17th centuries. It covers a longer period than the module on Renaissance Drama: Shakespeare and His Contemporaries and will therefore set your existing knowledge of Renaissance drama within a wider context.

Since most texts written and published in the Renaissance were either religious or at least informed by the controversies that followed the Reformation, a substantial part of the module involves studying the impact of religion and politics on the literature of the period. We will also look in detail at the 'material' dimension of the Renaissance, including the movement of people and ideas, theories of matter, conceptions of the body, sense of place, the physical features of texts, and the business of writing.

Topics covered

  • Sonnets
  • Epic poems
  • 'Metaphysical' poetry
  • Satire
  • Political allegory
  • Philosophical writing
  • Travel writing
  • Radical writing

You will be expected to read the whole of Paradise Lost, although the specific core texts for this module are Books 1, 2, 4 and 9. Other core texts are Shakespeare's Sonnets and Thomas More's Utopia. These will be complemented by your seminar tutor's selection of texts from The Norton Anthology of English Literature.


  • 20 hours of lectures
  • 10 hours of seminars
  • 170 hours of guided independent study


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