Course overview

This course will introduce a fascinating period of English history, during which poetry, prose and the arts produced some of the touchstones of British culture. We will explore a range of poetry including Thomas Wyatt’s, love poetry, Ralegh’s verse, Edmund Spenser’s homage to Elizabeth I, John Donne’s astonishing poems of love and divinity, and Milton’s early poems; playwrights, Shakespeare and Marlowe, and prose writers such as Tyndale and his translations from the Bible, Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer and extracts from the King James’ Bible. Additional context for the period will be provided from paintings, contemporary documents and letters. All texts will be provided on Canvas.

Course description

The era of the English Renaissance marks the transition from

the late Mediaeval period to the early Modern period. This

era is one of profound change, politically, socially,

economically and culturally.

We will explore why the Renaissance came late to Britain, and

how it imports Humanism. We will discover how the new

sciences and the Protestant Reformation are both products of

the Renaissance, and engines which drive further change

politically and culturally.

Within this period of flux, the English language itself was

evolving dramatically from Middle English towards the forms

of English still spoken today. We will account for this change,

and explore how these changes animate poets, playwrights

and prose writers. Our study of literary texts will open more

questions concerning cultural practices and beliefs in our era.

Indeed, we shall see how the English language itself becomes

contentious, involved in the development of propaganda in

news-sheets and pamphleteering. Both news-sheets and

pamphlets were illustrated with woodcuts, and we will

explore the iconography of such images.

Supporting our explorations and discoveries regarding the

English Renaissance, we will discuss the art of portrait

painting and its significance politically, and touch briefly upon

music in the period both in court, church and the broader


A particular focus of the course will be the discovery of

women’s voices (poets and prose writers) demonstrating how

vital these voices are to a complete appreciation of the

English Renaissance.

What financial support is available?

We don't want anything to stand in your way when it comes to bringing Adult learning within reach so if you need anything to support you to achieve your goals then speak to one of our education experts during your enrolment journey. Most of our courses are government funded but if you don't qualify or need alternative financial help to access them then let us know.

What other support is available?

All of our digital content, teaching and learning activities and assessments are designed to be accessible so if you need any additional support you can discuss this with the education experts during your enrolment journey and we will do all we can to make sure you have optimal access.

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