Course syllabus




SEMESTER 1, 2019

15 points



Dr Sophie Tomlinson 

Roger Nicholson 

Dr Claudia Marquis 


Well-being always comes first

We all go through tough times during the semester, or see our friends struggling. There is lots of help out there - for more information, look at this Canvas page, which has links to various support services in the University and the wider community.

Course delivery format:

2 hours of lectures and 1 hour of tutorial

(Timetable and room details can be viewed on Student Services Online)

Summary of Course Description:     

An introductory study of medieval and early modern literature, covering works by major authors like Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare, Milton and England’s first woman author, writing professionally, Aphra Behn. This study, construed as a reading of highly individual texts, or as a sequence that constructs something of a textual history, immediately strikes us as challenging, by virtue of its alterity, its otherness. That has value for us, viewing this literature from our historical and cultural distance, not least because it requires us to bring our historical imagination into play. In reading these works, furthermore, we discover a compact history of literary engagements with social, cultural and political issues that arose in a period that is notable for the cataclysmic changes it enjoyed, or endured: revolution and reforms, in state government and in religion (which saw England change radically from a Catholic to a Protestant country during the sixteenth century), but also in organisation of urban and domestic societies. At the same time, this study of socially engaged literary texts develops acquaintance with a range of important literary forms, mostly forms that had long histories before them, but, in this period, commonly charged with the force of the new.

A number of topics and tropes will be discussed, in the course of tracing various histories through the texts studied:

Travel, quest and discovery

Belief and burning

The place of women and women’s speech



Identity and self-fashioning

Imagined communities and the making of a nation

Alterity and innovation


Course outcomes:

By the end of this course students should

  1. have an enhanced ability to read and understand late medieval and early modern English verse and prose;
  1. be aware of traditions of literary writing in late medieval and early modern England;
  2. be able to recognize and discuss some important features and changes in English society and culture across this period;
  3. have familiarity with typical features and structures of early modern literary genres, including poetry, drama and non-dramatic prose;
  4. Be able to discuss and compare literature from this period using critical and scholarly resources, including electronic databases and research tools;
  5. be conversant with theoretical principles of value for the study of early literature;
  6. understand the principles of scholarly citation.

 Assessment Summary:

  • 10%: 4 x tutorial exercises: 200 words x 4 = 800 words.
  • 25%: First essay assignment: 1300 words
  • 25%: Second essay assignment: 1300 words
  • 40%: Examination of 2 hours.


Prescribed Texts (in order of reading):

Malory, King Arthur and his Knights; Selected Tales by Sir Thomas Malory, ed. Eugene Vinaver (Oxford, 1975), York Mystery Plays: A Selection in Modern Spelling, ed. Richard Beadle and Pamela King (Oxford, 1984), Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet, ed. Peter Holland (Penguin, 2000); Jonson, Volpone, or The Fox, ed. Robert Watson, New Mermaids (2003); Behn, Oroonoko and Other Writings, ed. Paul Salzman (Oxford World's Classics, 2009). 

Texts for Chaucer, Sidney and Shakespeare sonnets, Marvell and Donne poems will be distributed through Canvas.

Note Chaucer collection:


Recommended Texts:

Optional info depending on course requirements

 Workload and deadlines for submission of coursework:           

The University of Auckland's expectation is that students spend 10 hours per week on a 15-point course, including time in class and personal study. Students should manage their academic workload and other commitments accordingly. Deadlines for coursework are set by course convenors and will be advertised in course material. You should submit your work on time. In extreme circumstances, such as illness, you may seek an extension but you may be required to provide supporting information before the assignment is due. Late assignments without a pre-approved extension may be penalised by loss of marks – check course information for details.

Course summary:

Date Details