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Approaches to Renaissance & Early Modern Studies - HIS00003M

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Kevin Killeen
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2023-24

Module summary

The period from c.1450 to c.1700 witnessed the emergence of a range of remarkable and remarkably sophisticated creations in many genres (both visual and textual). Traditionally, this has been given the label of ’The Renaissance’ and regarded as the origin of ‘modernity’ in its various guises: such as the emergence of individualism, of religious scepticism, realpolitik and of the science of history itself. However, in this module such teleological narratives are eschewed in favour of less crudely evolutionary accounts that give due emphasis to what thinkers, writers and artists actually thought they were trying to achieve (as far, of course, as the evidence allows).

This core module, taught each year by a selection of colleagues from several of the constituent departments of the faculty of arts and humanities, which may include: Archaeology, English, History, History of Art, Music, Philosophy, Politics, and Theatre, Film and Television, offers a distinctive, exciting and exacting multi-disciplinary exploration of Renaissance and Early Modern Culture and Literature. Seminars draw upon and develop problems and ideas that fascinated writers, artists, and thinkers of the period, and are again at the cutting edge of research today.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 1 2023-24

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • Develop skills of source analysis and interpretation;
  • Assess a range of source material and relevant secondary works; and
  • Develop students’ powers of evidence-based historical argument, both orally and in writing.

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have a grounding in a broad range of sources and studies documenting the intellectual, political and aesthetic cultures of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • Be familiar with the range of resources available for studying the cultures of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe and the wider world, and have acquired the interpretative skills needed to find, read and work with them.
  • Have acquired knowledge of the relationship between English, British, European and Global cultures during this period of dramatic geographical and intellectual expansion and of profound political and religious change.
  • Be able to pursue their research questions across departmental and disciplinary boundaries

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. Discovering how to describe the world in the first global age
  2. Reformation of society and reformation of the self
  3. London and the Aesthetics of Squalor
  4. Science, poetics and women’s writing
  5. Place, Space, and Performance
  6. Word and Image
  7. Music and Patronage in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries
  8. Sovereign Selves and Sovereign States


Task Length % of module mark
4,000 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

Students submit a 2,000-word formative essay at the end of the first Reading and Writing week.
A 4,000-word summative essay will be due in the assessment period.



Module feedback

Students will typically receive written feedback on their formative essay within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative essay during their tutor’s student hours—especially during week 11, before, that is, they finalise their plans for the Summative Essay.

For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For semester time reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Walsham, Alexandra, The Reformation of the Landscape: Religion, Identity and Memory in Early Modern Britain and Ireland. (Oxford University Press, 2011.)
  • Greene, Roland. Five words: critical semantics in the age of Shakespeare and Cervantes. (Chicago University Press, 2013.)
  • Nandini Das, João Vicente Melo; Haig Smith and Lauren Working. Keywords of Identity, Race, and Human Mobility in Early Modern England. (Amsterdam University Press 2021)

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.