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Researching the Renaissance - ENG00092H

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Helen Smith
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

This module will introduce you to research in and beyond academia. The course asks you to undertake three mini Renaissance research projects inspired by work currently underway in the Department. It will give you practical and conceptual tools to undertake innovative and exciting research, and will encourage you to work in interdisciplinary and inventive ways. The module asks what is new in Renaissance studies, and will engage with issues of decolonisation, race, sex and representation; how we bring old texts to new audiences; and how we make sense of past cultures and literatures. As well as undertaking hands-on research, you will be introduced to principles of writing about, editing and communicating Renaissance scholarship to academic audiences and the wider public, giving you invaluable skills for your dissertation and future research as well as for a wide range of careers. You will get the chance to learn from (and critique!) sample papers delivered by staff members and postgraduates, as well as developing your own original paper. 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 beginning of the term following the module. 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 research and presentation skills for this, and will get plenty of support and guidance from tutors and from our partners in local archives, museums and libraries. There is no formal written assessment. The course will be team-taught and you will work across three self-contained research projects. These will vary from year to year, but are likely to include research in institutions beyond the university, for instance, York Minster, Leeds Brotherton Library, and the Borthwick Institute as well as a chance to try your hand at printing, thanks to the English Department's Thin Ice Press.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2021-22

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

Sample projects include:

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.

Evidence of diversity / diversity of evidence This project will ask what we can know about diversity in early modern England and beyond, discovering 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 recover case studies from the archives as well as engaging with a range of literary texts.

Editing polymathy This project involves 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.

Consuming Knowledge What kinds of knowledge are available in recipes? What kinds of knowing went into creating them? This project will introduce you to exciting current work on reconstruction, gender and making. It will involve archival and text-based research into recipes and writing about food, and will include a practical element as we work to reproduce and investigate early modern dishes.


Task Length % of module mark
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
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.