Journeys, 1500-1700

Module code: EN7225

Module convenor: Professor Sarah Knight

This module considers how the idea of the 'journey' developed across two centuries of English literary history. Between the sixteenth and the late seventeenth centuries, the theme of the journey became increasingly important in literature as the world that writers knew expanded, and as early modern writers were inspired by the new opportunities for travel made possible by technological innovations and the growing permeability of national boundaries. Conceived metaphorically, the journey was variously represented as a spiritual and moral progression (whether as an epic path down to hell or a pilgrimage made to an elevated devotional place), as a means of prompting literary meditation on home, and as a way of imagining the exotic and unknown.


An introductory team-taught seminar will introduce students to some of the module's key themes. Seminars that follow will explore such topics as:

  • Travellers, performers, and deceit
  • Descents to the underworld in Homer, Virgil, and Spenser
  • Early modern travel writing on Europe
  • John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress
  • John Milton's Paradise Lost


  • One 4,000-word essay