EL5003 - Early Modern Cultures

What will I learn on this module?

On this module you will learn to read texts written in the period 1500-1700 historically. Lectures and seminars will encourage you to learn about the early modern period, and to situate texts by authors such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, Thomas More, and Philip Sidney. You will learn about poetry, prose, and drama – situating literary genres from the period in relation to themes that include: class, race, sexuality, politics, authority, gender, and ideas of literary production itself. Lectures will trace the afterlives of some of the most influential texts ever written, and will encourage you to read these textual traditions in light of a range of western literary ideologies.

Building upon work completed at Level 4 on early modern authors like Shakespeare and Donne, this module offers students a more comprehensive survey of the early modern period. Encouraging students to read literature historically, Early Modern Cultures fosters key skills in tutor-led and independent reading and research that will complement a range of studies at level 6.

How will I learn on this module?

2 x 1-hour lectures
1 x 1-hour seminar

This module will be delivered through two weekly 1-hour lectures (and two film screenings in week 6), and one 1 hour seminar. Lectures will be focused upon specific texts, on contextual concepts relevant to those texts, and on academic skills tailored for the module’s assessment tasks. In addition to learning during contact hours with the module lecturers, you will be expected to undertake both directed and independent learning. Directed learning generally will take the form of preparation for seminars where you will be expected to contribute to discussion. Informal presentations will be used as well as group work to facilitate student engagement.

Independent learning generally will take the form of further reading and investigation, the consolidation of seminar notes, and revision/preparation for the assessment of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures and tasks for these will develop your academic skills as you engage with primary, secondary, theoretical and contextual materials to allow you to attain the module learning outcomes, and, more importantly perhaps, to enjoy reading and thinking about early modern literature in context. The module handbook provides details of lectures, reading lists and assessment criteria; lecture PowerPoint slides are made available on the e-learning portal. The module tutor will be available in lectures, as well as in office hours and on email/phone, to discuss any queries or concerns you have about how to excel academically on the module. Moreover, feedback on formative work will serve as ‘feed forward’, giving guidance on how to improve during the module. In addition, you have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout the entire duration of your programme. The academic side of the Guidance Tutor’s role includes:
• monitoring your ongoing academic progress
• helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development
• directing you to further available services which can help them with their academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus)
You are advised to see your Guidance Tutor at least twice each semester to review your academic progress. The Guidance Booklet, which you receive at the start of your first year, includes structured materials designed to help you develop your self-reflection skills. These materials underpin the academic side of the regular Guidance meetings, helping you to learn how to best use the feedback you receive on your assignments, how to build on your strengths, and improve in the areas where you could perform better.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

William Shakespeare, Othello
Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella
Selected essays by Francis Bacon and Michel de Montaigne
Shakespeare, Coriolanus
Christopher Marlowe, Edward II
Thomas Dekker & Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl
Elizabeth Carey, The Tragedy of Mariam
Shakespeare, The Tempest

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1 a specialised knowledge of selected early modern texts and their contexts

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
2 an ability to analyse early modern literature, paying attention to thematic concerns and formal features
3 a capacity to select relevant primary and secondary materials and to deploy this evidence in discussing issues relevant to early modern texts

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
4 an ability to use critical theories to interpret drama in its contexts and ours
5 skills conforming to relevant standards of good academic conduct in the expression of an informed argument in written and oral forms through completing the various activities prescribed

How will I be assessed?

Formative (practice) assessment:

1. 1000-word essay plan. Writing this plan and receiving feedback on it will help you:

• identify the question you intend to answer
• identify the texts you plan to use to answer the question
• provide some description of how you intend to answer the question
• offer some detail about how you will structure your response
• present some examples of secondary material you plan to use
• ask your tutor for advice about any specific areas of concern or query

This formative assessment will aim to ensure you organise your ideas and material for the assessed essay, by selecting relevant primary and secondary resources to help you answer the question they have chosen. Written feedback on this plan will be provided, as well as opportunities to meet the tutor for a one-to-one meeting. The rationale for this is to enable you to road-test ideas before committing yourself to an argument or position. This assessment addresses MLOs in Knowledge and Understanding, Intellectual/Professional skills & abilities, and PVA.

Summative (graded) assessment:

1. 1000 word critical review (30%)

This assessment requires you to read three critical articles (from the online reading list) and critique one of them – describing and analysing the critic’s argument in detail.

This is designed to help you practice critical reading and writing strategies, to strengthen these skills before you undertake longer independent research and writing tasks.
MLOs 3, 4, 5

2. 2000 word essay (70%)

For this task you will have to write an essay referring to at least three of the plays we have studied on the module (one of which from weeks 7-11) in response to a set of questions.

The aim of this 2000-word essay is to give you the opportunity to situate and analyse early modern texts in their immediate historical contexts, while expressing your arguments in a format with which you should now be familiar – and that conforms to high standards of academic conduct. This assessment tests your skills in written expression, research, close textual analysis, referencing, and contextualisation. It also helps you develop your expertise in structuring arguments in long pieces of written work, which is vital preparation for your dissertation or project in your third year.

Feedback will be provided using the Departmental template and comments on the script. This assessment addresses MLOs 1-5 .





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code Q320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


Useful Links

Find out about our distinctive approach at 

Admissions Terms and Conditions

Fees and Funding

Admissions Policy

Admissions Complaints Policy