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EN228 Seventeenth Century: The First Modern Age of English Literature

All information is relevant for 2018/19.

Convenor: Dr John West (email: J dot West dot 1 at warwick dot ac dot uk)

Tutor: John West, with additional lectures by Dr Tess Grant and Sophie Shorland

Lecture: Monday 12:00 - 1:00pm (H.058)

Seminars: Thursday 9:00 - 10:00am, Thursday 10:00 - 11:00am (G03, Millburn House).

***For the opening week, please read the selection of Donne's Holy Sonnets in the Broadview Anthology. Think about how, in your opinion, they might fit into the four thematic areas of the module. Topics you might want to consider include but are not restricted to: the location of the 'true Church'; apocalypse and the ends of time; the politics of religion in early 17th-century England; and the differences between human, animal, and God.***

Pathway Information

This module is a Pathway Approved Option for the English Pathway and one of the Distributional Requirement options for the Theory, World and North American Pathways.


On this module, we will read a variety of canonical and non-canonical writing from 1603 to 1688 with the aim of finding out how works produced in different historical conditions commented on and intervened in the major ideological and intellectual upheavals of the period. To help you understand these upheavals, the module is organised into four thematic areas: Place; Time; Politics; and Difference. Each thematic unit is structured chronologically. Each week, we will look at primary texts in light of some contextual further reading from the period. There will also be selected secondary readings each week to help you locate your own critical investigations within the exciting field of seventeenth-century studies.

In 2018-19 the module will be using Moodle. A detailed breakdown of week-by-week reading will be available there in due course. Please bear with us whilst we set it up for the new academic year. In the meantime, you are invited to read around the syllabus (see the lecture list for guidance) as widely as you please and to follow the recommended reading list below, which will provide you with historical and critical frameworks to help you get the most out of the literature.

Recommended Summer Reading

In order to do well in this module, you must have a good understanding of the history of the period. Over the summer, we strongly recommend that you read Mark Kishlansky, A Monarchy Transformed: Britain 1603-1714 (Penguin, 1996). Over the summer, please complete the compulsory pre-term quiz and return it by the start of the first lecture.

To help you get to grips with the thematic elements of the module, we also recommend you read the selected passages from the books below. Some of them range across different historical periods but the ideas contained therein, when read in conjunction with Kishlansky, should help you to start thinking with the literature we're focusing on in the module.

  • Russel T. Tally Jnr., Spatiality (Routledge, 2012), Introduction, Chapters 1 (esp. p. 17-30), 2, and 3 (tends to privilege the novel genre but there is useful material here if you pick through the chapters on early modern understandings of place and space and how the sense of place informs literature).
  • Russel West-Pavlov, Temporalities (Routledge, 2013), Introduction, Chapters 1 and 2 (useful introduction to some key philosophies of time as well as the history of time-keeping).
  • The Varieties of British Political Thought, 1500-1800 ed. J.G.A. Pocock, Gordon J. Schochet and Lois G. Schwoerer (Cambridge, 1993), chs. 3, 4, 5, and 6 (a good overview of key issues in the history of political thought that will be very relevant to several primary texts).
  • Mark Currie, Difference (Routledge, 2004), Introduction and Chapters 4 and 5 (there is quite a lot of 'theory' in this book but try not to get distracted by the Derrida and focus on the ideas about history and cultural difference, which will be useful).


You should get yourselves copies of the following books, which have been ordered to the bookshop:

  • The Broadview Anthology of Seventeenth-Century Verse and Prose ed. Alan Rudrum, Holly Faith Nelson, and Joseph Black. Please make sure you buy the all-in-one 'Verse and Prose' anthology NOT the separate 'Verse' and 'Prose' anthologies. The majority of the primary reading is in this anthology, which includes a wide variety of other writing from the period. You are invited and encouraged to read beyond the module set texts.
  • Aphra Behn, Oroonoko, The Rover and Other Works ed. Janet Todd (Penguin Classics, 2003).
  • John Webster, The White Devil ed. Christina Luckyj (Bloomsbury, 2008).
  • Three Seventeenth-Century Plays on Women and Performance eds Hero Chalmers, Julie Sanders and Sophie Tomlinson (Manchester, 2006), for The Bird in a Cage. Make sure you get the paperback edition.
  • Three Restoration Comedies ed. Gamini Salgado (Penguin Classics, 2005).


  • 1 x 1500-word formative essay (to be submitted directly to your tutor in seminars in Term1, Week 7). The work for this essay can feed into the first summative essay if you wish.
  • 1 x 2500-word summative essay due early in Term 2 to be written in response to themes and texts from Term 1. Submitted through Tabula.
  • 1 x 2500-word summative essay due early in Term 3 to be written in response to a text read on EEBO. Submitted through Tabula.
  • 1 x 2-hour SEEN exam to be sat in Term 3 examination period.