Love and Death in the Renaissance

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
18 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA Q300 English Literature,
BA Q303 English Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA Q320 English Literature (Including Foundation Year),
BA Q321 English Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA Q210 English and Comparative Literature,
BA Q211 English and Comparative Literature (Including Year Abroad),
BA Q212 English and Comparative Literature (Including Placement Year),
BA Q218 English and Comparative Literature (Including Foundation Year)

Module description

A century of religious, philosophical and political turmoil, the Renaissance was also the age of the great flourishing of the English stage and English verse.

In this module you will study Renaissance love poetry and learn about the sonnet, court literature, and the circulation of manuscripts. You will learn about the great writers of the canon, and some less familiar figures too, such as the female writers, who appropriated literary forms conventionally associated with men, and turned them to their own ends.

Moving from the focus on “love”, to the darker theme of “death”, some of the most extraordinary literature of this time is engaged with the religious turmoil and culture of martyrdom associated with the Reformation.

Finally, bringing these themes together, this module also explores Renaissance innovation in the theatre, and the revenge play, in which love, desire and death are intermingled and intertwined to horrifying effect.

Module content note: topics include traumas such as suicide, racism, rape, emotional and physical violence, and death. Please contact the Module Supervisor Dr. P. Gillies if you have any questions.

Module aims

The aim of the module is:

1. to provide an understanding of significant influences on early-modern writing
2. to provide an overview of the literature of the period, introducing students to many of the most important authors and genres of the sixteenth century.
3. to focus on women writers, as appropriate, in early-modern literature.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate knowledge of a wide variety of writing in several important genres from c. 1540 - c. 1640.
2. Critically evaluate and analyse particular literary works with an informed understanding of the historical period which produced them
3. Demonstrate the ability to research an essay using primary and secondary texts, and unedited sixteenth-century texts (via Early English Books Online)

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 1-hour lecture and 1-hour seminar


  • Donne, John; Carey, John. (2008) John Donne: the major works, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Shakespeare, William; Poole, Adrian. (2015) Romeo and Juliet, [London]: Penguin Books.
  • Marlowe, Christopher. (2003) Dr Faustus, New York, N.Y: Penguin Books.
  • William Shakespeare. (2015-10-29) Titus Andronicus: Penguin.
  • Milton, John. (2015-10-08) Lycidas: Taylor & Francis.
  • (2015) The Duchess of Malfi: an authoritative text, sources and contexts, criticism, New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  • Duncan-Jones, Katherine. (2002) 'Astrophil and Stella', in The major works, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Gibbons, Brian. (2008) The revenger's tragedy, London: A & C Black.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Critical Essay: 2000 words, including footnotes but not including bibliography    80% 
Practical   Reflective Portfolio: 600 words, two posts at 300 words each    15% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Patricia Gillies, email:
Dr Patricia Gillies
LiFTS General Office, email: Telephone 01206 - 872626



External examiner

Dr Doug Haynes
University of Sussex
Reader in American Literature and Visual Culture
Available via Moodle
Of 1420 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1420 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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