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ENGL3058 Radical England: From Shakespeare to Milton

Module Overview

The seventeenth century was a time of extreme change in England. In 1649, after years of civil war, Charles I, the King of England, was beheaded on Whitehall in front of a crowd of thousands. For ten years, England was run as a republic until Charles II was restored to the throne in 1660. You will explore how writers, dramatists and poets wrote about their world as it was turning upside down. When John Milton realised that the English republic was falling apart, he sat down to write his masterpiece, Paradise Lost. Other writers, such as Robert Herrick, wrote about illicit pleasures, and Andrew Marvell both admired and scorned those who thought it was legitimate to execute an English king. At the same time, newspapers flourished, women penned political pamphlets and England’s first ever opera was staged – despite the government’s bans on playgoing, drinking and ‘such like wickedness and abominations’.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to the literature and culture of an important and complex period of British history • enhance your understanding of the political, religious and cultural debates of the time • enable you to analyse and evaluate a range of literary and non-literary texts with relevant reference to specific debates and contexts • increase your awareness of different kinds of writing and genres and enable you to explore the power, and the limitations, of print culture at this time • develop your presentation and independent research skills

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the political, religious and cultural debates that caused conflict and upheaval in England in the seventeenth century
  • a range of different authors and texts and the conditions of writing, publishing and performing in seventeenth-century England
  • how literature from this time reflects, negotiates and contributes to political and social change
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • reflect on some key historical and political events in British history
  • position and think about this period of history, and its literature, in relation to other periods studied
  • make connections between the conflicts of the seventeenth century and present-day conflicts
  • evaluate, analyse and construct valid arguments about a range of different kinds of text (plays, poetry, histories, pamphlets) in relation to relevant historical, political, religious and cultural contexts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • identify and formulate an effective research question
  • present your work in front of your peers
  • critically appraise the work of your peers
  • work as part of a team to plan, manage and run an effective seminar
  • use the web and other resources to conduct research


You will cover a range of texts, including Shakespeare’s Jacobean plays, Ben Jonson’s masques, the poems of Robert Herrick and Andrew Marvell, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost. You will also study work by women writers and extracts from Milton’s prose. Key texts, such as Paradise Lost, will be spread over several weeks so that they can be studied in depth.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

• weekly lectures on context and critical approaches • weekly seminars • individual consultations and feedback sessions with the tutor • individual and group presentations • individual study and research • use of online resources and primary sources This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Independent Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Corns, Thomas N., ed (2003). A Companion to Milton. 

Amussen, Susan D. and Mark Kishlanksy, eds (1995). Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern England. 

Achinstein, Sharon (2003). Literature and Dissent in Milton’s England. 

Goldberg, Jonathan (1983). James I and the Politics of Literature. 

Thomas Healy and J. Sawday, eds (1990). Literature and the Civil War. 

Corns, Thomas N., ed (1993). The Cambridge Companion to English Poetry: Donne to Marvell. 

Collinson, Patrick (1988). The Birthpangs of Protestant England: Religious and Cultural Change in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries. 

Bevington, David and Peter Holbrook, eds (1998). The Politics of the Stuart Court Masque. 

Bevington, David, David Smith and Richard Strier, eds (1995). The Theatrical City: Culture, Theatre and Politics in London, 1576–1649. 

Guibbory, Achsah (1998). Ceremony and Community from Herbert to Marvell: Literature, Religion and Cultural Conflict in Seventeenth-Century England. 

Keeble, N. H., ed (2001). The Cambridge Companion to Writing of the English Revolution. 

Primary texts will be selected from The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume B, ed. Stephen Greenblatt et al. Texts will vary from year to year but it is recommended that all students read Paradise Lost before the module begins.. 


Assessment Strategy

The summative assessments are designed to test analytical and critical method, writing skills, relevant understanding of context and of the relationship between texts and contexts, and independent research skills.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1500 words) 35%
Essay  (2500 words) 65%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2500 words) 65%
Essay  (1500 words) 35%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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