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The Poetry Of Revolution

Key information

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Module description

This course will explore the thrilling and cataclysmic changes of the seventeenth century through the prism of poetry. As England came to grips with a fundamental change in the national religion; saw civil war pitting neighbour against neighbour and family against family; witnessed a steep rise in women authors and the emergence of modern science, the country’s values were challenged, overturned and re-formed. The module will explore how poets responded to these intense changes. The module will explore a wide range of writers, from John Milton and Aphra Behn to Aemilia Lanyer and Robert Hooke. We will analyse the brilliant wit, rich imagery and evocative forms of the period’s poems and ask what they tell us about the historical conditions of their production, and vice versa. Does political poetry have a particular style? Can poetry propel revolution as well as respond to it? We will investigate the models that poets called upon to write about these unprecedented events. 


Assessment details

1 x 3000 word essay

Educational aims & objectives

The module will explore how poets responded to the intense changes of the seventeenth century in both radical and conservative voices, and will investigate the models that poets called upon to write about these unprecedented events. Students will gain understanding of these changes and of the ways in which poetry actually brought about political and social change. Building on the first-year module Early Modern Literary Culture, the course will introduce students to poets such as Lucy Hutchinson and Abraham Cowley, alongside further examination of poets they may have countered already, such as John Milton and John Donne. Students will read widely in poetry and in criticism; seminars will focus both on close reading for form and style, and on developing a broader awareness of scholarly approaches from historicism and Marxism to formalism and manuscript studies. Students will contribute to a weekly forum, providing an opportunity to get formative feedback from their peers and seminar leader on a subject which they may later write on for the assessed work. For the coursework essay they will bring together a range of texts with attention to both close reading and critical argument.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be able to demonstrate intellectual, transferable and practicable skills appropriate to a Level 5 module and in particular will be able to:

  • analyse critically texts from a range of different poetic genres in the seventeenth century
  • demonstrate awareness and understanding of the political, religious, intellectual and social context of the period;
  • demonstrate knowledge of the major critical approaches that have been used to discuss these texts;
  • analyse a poem for its formal and linguistic features, using appropriate vocabulary, and harness such close readings to a broader critical argument;
  • compare and select different theoretical methods (to be demonstrated through critical commentary and essay);
  • communicate reading and research effectively, through oral presentations and discussion (seminar presentation, formative and unassessed);
  • develop and sustain an argument, drawing on appropriate resources (to be demonstrated through final essay).

Teaching pattern

Weekly lecture, Weekly 1 hour seminar

Suggested reading list

All core primary texts are available to read through MyReadingLists as eBooks or digitised copies. Some may also be reproduced on KEATS. If you want to buy poetry anthologies, these are the most useful for this module:

  • John P. Rumrich and Gregory Chaplin, eds. Seventeenth-century British Poetry 1603-1660 (New York: Norton, 2006)
  • Sarah C.E. Ross and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann, eds. Women Poets of the English Civil War (Manchester: MUP, 2017.

Subject areas


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.