EAS1035 - Beginnings: English Literature before 1800

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Jo Esra - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module selects texts that represent some of the richest sources and most complex moments of English cultural history before 1800. These texts, and the cultural elements they combine, went on to have afterlives of great significance for English language, literature and other media. In other senses, they offered legacies that were not taken up, and what has been lost in cultural transformations will also be considered.

Module aims

The module aims to 

  • introduce you to these major literary texts. In doing so, we aim to cultivate modes of reading and critical analysis broadly informed by an attention to history and context. Such analysis will include ideas of subjectivity, identity, conflict, community, myth, the transmission of stories, storytelling, translation, transformation, and influence. This module will emphasise essay-writing skills that are fundamental to research and communication in English literature.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific texts, written from ancient times through to the end of the eighteenth century
  • 2. Demonstrate a knowledge of the early development of English literary history

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 3. Demonstrate a capacity to identify and analyse the relationships between specific texts and their cultural and historical contexts
  • 4. Demonstrate a basic ability to analyse pre-modern literature and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to its historical context
  • 5. Demonstrate a basic ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with wider issues of cultural and intellectual history
  • 6. Demonstrate a basic ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and to apply these ideas to literary texts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through module work, demonstrate basic communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 8. Through essay-writing and exam, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 9. Through research for module work, essays and exam, demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Stories of origin: extracts from Genesis and Gilgamesh.
  • Homer, The Odyssey.
  • Beowulf, tr. Seamus Heaney.
  • Marie de France, Lays, tr. Glyn S. Burgess, and Keith Busby.
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tr. Bernard O'Donoghue.
  • Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander.
  • William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet ed. Rene Weis.
  • John Milton, Paradise Lost, books I, II, IV and IX.
  • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock.
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko.
  • Mary Shelley, Frankenstein ed. Nick Groom.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Seminars
Guided independent study33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided independent study70Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided independent study153Reading, research and essay preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay plan750 words1-6, 8-9Peer feedback and seminar discussion
Close analysis750 words1, 3-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Examination6524 hours1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up
Essay251000 words1-6, 8-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up
Module participation10Continuous1-7, 9Oral feedback with opportunity for office hours follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Examination24 hours1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period
Essay1000 word essay1-6, 8-9Referral/deferral period
Module participationRepeat study or Mitigation1-7, 9Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

 Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core reading:

  • Stories of origin: extracts from Genesis and Gilgamesh.
  • The Odyssey of Homer, trans. Emily Wilson (Norton, 2018).
  • Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney, ed. Daniel Donoghue (Norton Critical Editions, 2000).
  • The Lais of Marie de France, ed and tr. Glyn S. Burgess and Keith Busby, 2nd edn (Penguin, 1999).
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Bernard O’Donoghue (Penguin, 2006).
  • Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander.
  • William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet ed. Rene Weis.
  •  John Milton, Paradise Lost, books I, II, IV and IX.
  • Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock.
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko ed. Joanna Lipking (Norton Critical Editions, 1997).
  •  Mary Shelley, Frankenstein ed. Nick Groom

 The excerpts from Genesis and Gilgamesh, and the poem by Marlowe, will be supplied via ELE.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

The module description, module reading pack, lecture lists, lecture materials, additional reading materials, useful web links and a discussion forum will be available via the Exeter Learning Environment.

Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date


Key words search

Beginnings, literature, English

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