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Researching the Renaissance - ENG00092H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Brian Cummings
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

This module will introduce students to 'research' in and beyond academia. The course will be structured around four Renaissance research projects currently being undertaken by staff and doctoral researchers. It will show you ways to think about and structure research in the humanities, as well as how and why interdisciplinarity is essential for thinking about the past.

We will explore how early modern literature engages with material culture and social history, how it encompasses the theological and the philological, how the Renaissance engaged with the medieval and classical worlds, as well as the world beyond England and Europe. You will be introduced to principles of writing about, editing and communicating Renaissance scholarship to a public, and you will be encouraged to think about critical, literary and gender theory in relation to early modern literature.

Please note: the assessment for this course will involve a 'research paper', a 15 minute individual presentation, which you will deliver at a 'Renaissance Undergraduate Conference' held at the end of the course. You will be asked to develop a research project idea, in light of what you have learned in the course. You will be tutored in presentation skills for this. There is no formal written assessment.

The course will be team-taught and you will be introduced to four (or exceptionally three) self-contained research projects. These will vary from year to year, but may include research in institutions beyond the university, for instance, York Minster, Leeds Brotherton Library, Borthwick Institute and may involve work with the English Department Thin Ice Press.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Autumn Term 2020-21

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to the practice of academic research in the Renaissance, developing your high quality research and presentational skills and giving you an in-depth view into the rich literature of this crucial period.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module you should be able to demonstrate

  1. A substantial familiarity with the practice of researching literary cultures of the renaissance.
  2.  A solid grasp of how research in humanities is informed by an interdisciplinary mesh, including social, religious, political, intellectual and material histories.
  3. A detailed understanding of one or more research projects, their aims, protocols and audiences, both in and beyond academia
  4.  That you can present carefully developed ideas to an audience of peers, demonstrating proficient oral, written, performance and/or digital skills.

Module content

Research projects for 2018-9 are still being finalised but examples are given below:

Images and Iconoclasm - The Protestant Reformation is notorious for its distrust of images - the statues, paintings, and stained glass which had been an intrinsic part of medieval religion - sometimes resulting in outright acts of destruction. This Case Study will examine the theory and practice of images, iconoclasm, and the literary imagination. Research will be centred around surviving books and objects in York Minster and other local collections.

Life Writing and Microhistory - on producing biographical lives of the illiterate and the learned, moving from an account of Milton in love to early seventeenth century marriage customs, the management of childbirth, maternal mortality, the churching of women, family portraiture, early modern biography.

Editing polymathy - looking at the process of annotating, editing and glossing a seventeenth century writer, in a case study around The Oxford Works of Sir Thomas Browne. Browne wrote (beautifully) on science, theology, death, classical and biblical histories, anatomy, geography and more or less everything. How should we edit and present such a writer for twenty-first century readers?

Early Modern Scripture in Print - analyzing the visual, editorial, and physical characteristics of scriptural editions from the 16th and 17th centuries. This session will run at the Minster Library and make use of their collection of scriptural and biblical editions.

Getting it Wrong – this project will investigate error as both an imaginative and a practical category. We will consider how early modern writers thought about getting things wrong as a philosophical and creative act, but also they handled the real problems of things going wrong in the printing house, and in their books. One session will take place in the printing studio, as we work to reproduce (and understand) the mistakes of the past.

Evidence of diversity / diversity of evidence: representation and the canon – this project will ask about diversity in early modern England and beyond, asking what kinds of evidence are available to scholars who want to study the experiences of women, people of colour, non-heteronormative sexualities, and diverse bodies prior to the emergence of some of the categories of sexual and racial identity that shape our understandings today. This project will have a practical bent, and we will each seek to recover one case study from the archives during our two weeks of work.


Task Length % of module mark
Departmental - aural assessment
15 minute individual presentation
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Please note: There is no formal written assessment. Instead, the assessment for this course will involve a 'research paper', a 15 minute individual presentation, which you will deliver at a 'Renaissance Undergraduate Conference' held at the end of the course. You will be asked to develop a research project idea, in light of what you have learned in the course. The convenor will organise and advertise the undergraduate conference, ensuring continuity across the course, and make themselves available beyond office hours to tutor you in their presentations.  Our PhD students will help and advise you on presentation skills and strategies.

Formative assessment: you will submit a 1000 word draft of the research paper you are going to present at the conference, in a week to be arranged - usually in week 7.  Feedback will be given, usually in week 9 in time for the conference.



Task Length % of module mark
Departmental - aural assessment
15 minute individual presentation
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

Reading will be confirmed nearer to the start of the module, via the VLE site.  The Reading List for the 2nd year Renaissance module provides a useful starting point for thinking about the area that you would like to research.

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.