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Unit information: Literature and Revolution in 2016/17

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Unit name Literature and Revolution
Unit code ENGL30093
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Holberton
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will consider literature’s relationships with the cultural crises and revolutions of the seventeenth century. It is intended to be flexible in scope, developing students’ knowledge of well-known figures such as Jonson, Bacon, Cavendish, Herbert, Marvell, Milton, and Pepys, while introducing diverse texts by lesser-known men and women: polemical pamphlets, spiritual autobiographies, and masques, for example. It will examine literature written before and during the civil wars, rhetorical contests around the regicide, republic and Restoration, and the emergence of radical writing by Levellers in the 1640s, and Quakers, Diggers and Ranters in the 1650s. The unit will also connect these texts to more elusive kinds of revolution: how did changing ideas about sex and gender interact with the period’s cultural upheavals? How did the closure and remodeling of the theatres reflect shifting ideas about the stage? How was the period’s writing influenced by the scientific revolution inaugurated by Bacon and the Royal Society, or by London’s changing material culture as England became an empire of trade? The unit will introduce students to a range of approaches to reading texts in their historical contexts, and will give students a deeper understanding of the period’s rich and far-reaching cultural debates.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will have demonstrated

(1) a detailed knowledge and understanding of English literature from the civil wars period;

(2) a critical understanding of the political, historical, and cultural contexts that influence this body of literature;

(3) the ability to analyse and evaluate differing critical accounts of the primary literature;

(4) the ability to identify and evaluate pertinent evidence in order to illustrate a cogent argument;

(5) strengthened skills in argumentation, academic writing, and evaluation of textual evidence from a variety of different genres, appropriate to level H/6.

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour seminar per week.

Assessment Details

1 essay of 2000 words (40%)

1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

Both essays will assess ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Andrew Marvell, ‘An Horatian Ode’, ‘Upon Appleton House’ and ‘The Garden’ in The Poems of Andrew Marvell (Longman, 2007)

John Milton, Paradise Lost, ed. Alastair Fowler (Longman, 2006)

Elspeth Graham, ed. Her Own Life (Routledge, 2002)

Extracts from scientific texts including Hooke, Micrographia (1665)

James Grantham Turner, Libertines and Radicals in Early Modern London: Sexuality, Politics and Literary Culture, 1630-1685 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002)

Knoppers, Laura Lunger (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Literature and the English Revolution (Oxford University Press, 2012)