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The University of Southampton

ENGL3003 Rakes and Libertines

Module Overview

Libertinism is defined by more than sex, but, with its emphasis on the senses and the need to follow one’s natural desires, it’s a good place to start. Drawing on a Hobbesian account of desire as self-interest and nature as a state of war, libertinism’s championing of the senses is also a means of exploring ideas of domination, relativism and individualism. At its most extreme it mounts a moral case for immorality, denotes a scepticism about the power of reason, and rejects Christian humanist ideas of a universal order and man’s place in it. We will be exploring the ways in which writers from Hobbes to Byron engage with the figure of the libertine and will trace changing ideas of sexuality and their relationship with cultural authority and social convention.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to a range of writing which addresses the relationship between power, sexuality and cultural through the figure of the rake or libertine • encourage you to interpret the texts studied in relation to their wider contexts, and in particular to the gender politics of the long-eighteenth century

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • libertine literature from the Restoration to the Romantic period
  • the significance of and distinctions between rakes and libertines
  • the literary, philosophical and social contexts in which libertine literature was produced
  • C18th understandings of sexuality and gender politics
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • carry out your own research on a topic
  • engage with, and develop, ideas presented to you on the spot
  • Demonstrate intellectual independence in your writing
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyse complex written texts and visual images
  • work directly from primary sources
  • critically evaluate secondary sources
  • analyse texts in terms of their wider (historical, social, political) contexts
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • explain changing responses and representations of rakes and libertines with reference to historical, political and cultural context
  • make connections between literature of different periods and different genres
  • analyse and comment in detail on poetry, drama, essays, novels and philosophical texts


The module will draw on a range of genres from the philosophy of Hobbes and the drama of Behn and Etherege, to sentimental and gothic novels, and the poetry of Rochester and Byron.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • Lectures • Seminars • Office hours for individual feedback on essays Learning activities include • Office hours for individual feedback on essays • Experience of organizing and running a seminar • Individual study and research • Accessing and evaluating online resources

Independent Study252
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Jane Austen. Pride & Prejudice, ed. Vivien Jones. 

George Gordon, Lord Byron. Don Juan. 

Warren Chernaik (1995). Sexual freedom in Restoration Literature. 

ed. Scott McMillan. Restoration and Eighteenth-century Comedy (it includes three of the four texts you need for the first two weeks). 

Ann Radcliffe. The Romance of the Forest, ed. Chloe Chard. 

Mathew Lewis. The Monk. 

Samuel Richardson. Pamela, ed. Keymer. 

Rochester. Complete Poems and Plays, ed., Paddy Lyons. 

Daniel Defoe. Roxana, ed. Mullan. 

For full details.



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (3000 words) 50%
Timed Assignment  (48 hours) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Texts are available electronically and in the Hartley, but students may wish to buy their own copies of set texts.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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