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Contested Voices in Early Modern England

Key information

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Module description

This module focuses on the rich and diverse range of literary and non-literary texts written in England during the early modern period (1500-1700). Textual production in the period was deeply affected by new printing technology and the establishment of the London book trade, while many writers still circulated their work in manuscript for social and political reasons. While co-existing alongside scribal culture well into the 17th century, the production of printed books provided a living for a new breed of professional writers and created new reading markets for novel kinds of texts including news pamphlets, non-conformist writing and scientific writing.

Professional writers, like Thomas Nashe and William Shakespeare, operated alongside writers working in older traditions - the courtier poet (Sidney), the preacher (Donne), the letter-writer (Brilliana Harley) and the scholar. This module introduces students to all the main types of writing and writers in the period, encompassing manuscript and print, canonical and non-canonical authors, literary and non-literary texts, professional writers who lived by the pen, and women writers who often wrote in personal, domestic and devotional genres or literary coteries. Special attention will also be paid to the impact of specific institutions, including patronage and censorship, on the proliferation of textual production and its regulation and how different types of writing were ideologically embedded within the context of their original production
and reception. By the end of this module, students will have a broader critical
understanding of how diverse, prolific and influential textual production was during one of the key periods in English literary history and culture.


Assessment details

1 x 4000 word essay

Educational aims & objectives

This module aims to:

  • Introduce students to the main types of textual production in early modern England (1500 - 1700)
  • Introduce students to the main textual and paratextual features conventionally associated with different types of texts written in England during the early modern period
  • Develop students' critical understanding of the main social, economic and institutional contexts (patronage, censorship, the court, the commercial stage and the book trade), within which early modem texts were originally produced and consumed
  • Develop students' critical understanding of writing as the product of a network of agents, including but not isolating authors from collaborators, scribes, editors and their target audience or readership
  • Develop students' critical understanding of early modem manuscripts and printed books as socialized texts, ie as deeply embedded in the ideological, social and economic structures within which they were originally produced
  • Develop students' critical understanding of master texts produced by canonical literary authors within the broader context of textual production in the early modem period.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will have:

  • Encountered a broad range of literary and non-literary texts, produced in the period 1500–1700.
  • Read, discussed and written about examples of some of the diverse and prolific modes of textual production which were developing in the early modern period.
  • Considered the ways in which modes of textual production could influence the form texts take, as well as the ideas expressed in those texts.
  • Examined the various kinds of ‘professional’ writers and modes of writing which shaped both the early modern and our own sense of an ‘early modern literary culture’.
  • Be able to evaluate and deploy a range of different research approaches by working with a series of invited guest speakers
  • Explored institutions and processes such as patronage and censorship which shaped textual production in the period
  • Have improved their scholarly writing and depth of analytical thinking.

Teaching pattern

1 x 2 hour seminar, weekly

Module description disclaimer

King’s College London reviews the modules offered on a regular basis to provide up-to-date, innovative and relevant programmes of study. Therefore, modules offered may change. We suggest you keep an eye on the course finder on our website for updates.

Please note that modules with a practical component will be capped due to educational requirements, which may mean that we cannot guarantee a place to all students who elect to study this module.

Please note that the module descriptions above are related to the current academic year and are subject to change.