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Unit information: Gender, Desire and the Renaissance Stage in 2020/21

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Unit name Gender, Desire and the Renaissance Stage
Unit code ENGL20206
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Ian Calvert
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit will examine the way in which gender and desire are represented in a wide range of early modern plays. These depictions will be studied alongside a number of other primary sources - such as conduct books, sumptuary laws, and tracts on witchcraft - to give a sense of the historical conditions that gave rise to the plays, and will be analysed in relation to current ideas within literary theory.


The unit will aim to investigate both early modern constructions of sexual difference and desire, and the way in which these notions are conceptualised and articulated in different schools of criticism. This unit intends to introduce students to a wide range of Renaissance drama, in order to raise important issues in the historical construction and theoretical issues surrounding ideas about gender.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

1) demonstrate an understanding of the social, philosophical and intellectual contexts that gave rise to the plays, and

2) engage critically with the different theoretical approaches to the study of literature

3) demonstrate a more detailed knowledge of Renaissance literature;

4) demonstrate an ability to analyse literary texts within both a historical and theoretical context; and

5) demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, close textual analysis, and critical interpretation appropriate to level I/5 using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching details

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Details

  • 1 x 3000 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Students will be given the opportunity to submit a draft or outline of their final essay of up to 1,500 words and to receive feedback on this.

Reading and References

Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander

William Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew

Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl

John Ford, Tis Pity She’s a Whore

Gayle Rubin The Traffic in Women

Judith Butler, Imitation and Gender Insubordination