Accessibility statement

Lost in a Book: Travel & Narrative in the Renaissance - ENG00086H

« Back to module search

  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Jane Raisch
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

From shipwrecks to pirates, from the discovery of unknown lands to reunions with long-lost lovers, the state of being lost has long vexed protagonists and inspired authors. In this module, we’ll explore loss and being lost as fundamental conditions of both the production, and interpretation, of narrative in the Renaissance. Focusing especially on romance, that nebulous and unwieldy form, we’ll consider what the fictional representation of ‘wrong turns’ (literal and metaphorical) tells us about early modern story-telling, ethics, and New World exploration.

We’ll therefore contextualize our examination of early modern literary texts with readings from historical accounts of voyages and cross-cultural encounters and explore how being lost would have been both a familiar literary convention inherited from the ancient and medieval worlds and a condition made newly meaningful in light of expansive global discoveries. We’ll be attentive too to our own position as readers lost – in good ways and bad – in such texts, and how being lost might structure, or hinder, learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2024-25

Module aims

This module aims to introduce students to the centrality of ‘being lost’ as a literary and intellectual phenomenon in the Renaissance and to familiarize students with the genre of romance and its indebtedness to epic and travel narrative. We’ll do that by exploring the value of reading across literary and non-literary texts and to reading with an eye to historical context. Finally, the module aims to cultivate an attentiveness to our own habits and practices of reading narrative - to our experiences of being lost in books.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of early modern romances, travel narratives, and epics.
  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with the concept of loss as a literary and intellectual trope and with problems and questions raised by the genre of romance and the discovery of the New world
  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields.
  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will be given the opportunity to submit a 1000-word formative essay for the module, which can feed into the 3000-word summative essay submitted at the end of the module.

Your essay will be annotated and returned to you by your tutor within two weeks.

You will submit your summative essay via the VLE during the revision and assessment weeks at the end of the teaching semester (weeks 13-15). Feedback on your summative essay will be uploaded to e:Vision to meet the University’s marking deadlines


Task Length % of module mark
Essay - 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment

Indicative reading

  • Homer, Odyssey (selections)
  • Lucian, A True History
  • Heliodorus, Aethiopica (selections)
  • Spenser, Faerie Queene Book 3
  • Rabelais, Fourth Book (selections)
  • Montaigne, Essais (selections)
  • Shakespeare (and Wilkins), Pericles
  • Wroth, Urania (selections)
  • Milton, Paradise Lost (selections)
  • Swift, Gulliver’s Travels
  • Selections from various historical travel narratives (Marco Polo, Columbus, Sandys, etc.)

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.