EAS1035 - Beginnings: English Literature before 1800

2010/1 Module description

Lecturer(s)Tricia Zakreski (convenor)
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
Duration of Module11 weeks
Total Student Study Time300 hours (including 1x2hr seminar and 1x1hr lecture a week)

Module aims

This module selects texts that represent some of the richest, most complex moments in 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. The module will introduce students to these major literary texts. In doing so, it
aims 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, social relations, political
power, conflict, community, and the human and non-human forces of history. This module will
emphasise essay-writing skills that are fundamental to research and communication in English

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Module Specific Skills:
a. demonstrate an informed appreciation of specific texts, written from ancient times through to
the end of the eighteenth century.
b. demonstrate a knowledge of the early development of English literary history.
c. demonstrate a capacity to identify and analyse the relationships between specific texts and
their cultural and historical contexts.
2. Discipline Specific Skills:
a. demonstrate a basic ability to analyse pre-modern literature and to relate its concerns and its
modes of expression to its historical context.
b. demonstrate a basic ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline
with wider issues of cultural and intellectual history.
c. demonstrate a basic ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas and to apply
these ideas to literary texts.
3. Personal and Key Skills:
a. Through seminar work, demonstrate basic communication skills, and an ability to work both
individually and in groups.
b. Through essay-writing, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic
capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct
c. Through research for seminars and essays, demonstrate basic proficiency in information
retrieval and analysis.

Learning and teaching methods

Details of Learning and Teaching Methods:
Teaching is by weekly two-hour seminar and one-hour lecture, supported by an Exeter Learning
Environment site. Students will be expected to participate in class discussion and to work in study
groups in preparation for seminars. Seminar attendance is compulsory. Participation in formative
work on the Exeter Learning Environment is compulsory for completion of the module.

Assignments and assessment

Formative or %
Form of
Size of the
e.g. duration/
Feedback method:
Formative Response to
primary source
and feedback to
500 words
100 words
1a, 1c,
2a-c, 3a-c
Peer feedback
10% Revised response (500 words) 1a, 1c,
2a-c, 3b-c
Feedback sheet with
opportunity for office hours
follow-up. Cohort feedback
via lectures, seminars and/or
Exeter Learning Environment
30% Essay 1000 words 1a-c, 2ac,
Feedback sheet with
opportunity for office hours
follow-up. Cohort feedback
via lectures, seminars and/or
Exeter Learning Environment
Essay 2000 words 1a-c, 2ac,
Feedback sheet with
opportunity for office hours
Formative Group
10 Minutes
1a, 1c,
2a-c, 3a,
Oral feedback from tutor and
peers. Opportunity for office
hours follow-up.
10% Seminar
Continuous 1a-c, 2ac,
3a, 3c
Oral feedback from tutor.
Opportunity for office hours

Syllabus plan

1. Stories of origin: extracts from Genesis and classical texts
2. Beowulf, tr. Seamus Heaney
3. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, tr. Bernard O'Donoghue
4. Civic theatre
5. Christopher Marlowe, Hero and Leander
6. William Shakespeare, The Winter's Tale
7. New World narratives: extracts from classical, medieval and early modern texts
8. John Milton, Paradise Lost, books 1-2, 4, 9
9. Alexander Pope, Essay on Man
10. Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels
11. Mary Wollstonecraft, A Short Residence in Sweden

Indicative basic reading list

Indicative basic reading list:
Primary texts
You should buy copies of each of these books.
Beowulf. Trans. Seamus Heaney. Ed. Daniel Donoghue (Norton, 2000)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Trans. Bernard O'Donoghue (Penguin, 2006)
Tony Harrison. Collected Plays Vol.1. (Faber and Faber,
Christopher Marlowe. The Complete Poems and Translations, ed. Stephen Orgel, 2nd edn
(Penguin, 2007)
William Shakespeare. The Winter's Tale. Ed. Stephen Orgel (Oxford UP, 1998).
John Milton. Paradise Lost. Ed. John Leonard (Penguin, 2003)
Alexander Pope. The Major Works. Ed. Pat Rogers (Oxford UP, 2008)
Mary Wollstonecraft. Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark. Ed. Richard Holmes
(Penguin, 1987)
Jonathan Swift. Gulliver's Travels, Ed. Claude Rawson and Ian Higgins (Oxford UP, 2008)
Selected secondary texts
Listed here are a few examples of secondary reading recommended for the first two weeks of the
Delumeau, Jean. History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition. Trans. Matthew
O'Connell. Urbana: U of Illinois P, 2000.
Murphy, Cullen. The Word According to Eve: Women and the Bible in Ancient Times and Our
Own. London: Allen Lane-Penguin, 1998.
Andy Orchard, A Critical Companion to Beowulf (2003)
Andy Orchard, Pride and Prodigies: studies in the monsters of the Beowulf-manuscript (1995),
esp. chapters II-III.
Indicative web-based 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
Other resources:
Module Reading Pack including texts for weeks 1 and 7. There may also be short primary and
secondary materials supporting other texts on the syllabus.

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