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Unit information: Kings, Queens, and Sycophants in 2021/22

Unit name Kings, Queens, and Sycophants
Unit code ENGL30131
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Sebastiaan Verweij
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

This unit will introduce students to the writing and culture of the British Renaissance royal courts, more specifically, those of Henry VIII, James IV of Scotland, Mary, Queen of Scots, Elizabeth I, and James VI/I. The core literary texts under consideration here will be writing by kings and queens: Henry VIII’s lyrics, the sonnets of Mary, Queen of Scots, the poetry, speeches and translations of Elizabeth I, and the literary manifestos, poetry, and prose works by King James VI/I. Students will be invited especially to consider questions of literary and textual authority, and to think about what comes into play – for early modern and today’s readers – when a text is authored by a monarch. These royal writings will be contextualised by selected works from courtiers addressed to those kings and queens (e.g., praising or attacking the monarch, or asking for patronage), in order to assess how monarchs were textually constructed. This unit will also consider other types of courtly culture, such as pageants, royal entries, or baptisms, as forms of cultural spectacle that directly connects to the texts. The unit will incorporate a formative assessment: students will be given the opportunity to produce a 1,500-word draft or outline of their essay, engage in structured peer feedback, and receive feedback on the draft from the tutor.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the nature and extent of the writings produced by British renaissance kings and queens;

(2) demonstrate a familiarity with the major literary-historical approaches to these texts;

(3) demonstrate a critical understanding of the modes and genres of those works, as well as the broad cultural contexts in which they were produced;

(4) identify and present pertinent evidence to develop a cogent argument in oral and written discourse, as appropriate to level H;

(5) demonstrate skills in textual analysis, argumentation, and critical interpretation using evidence from primary texts and secondary sources.

Teaching Information

Teaching will involve asynchronous and synchronous elements, including group discussion, research and writing activities, and peer dialogue. Students are expected to engage with the reading and participate fully with the weekly tasks and topics. Learning will be further supported through the opportunity for individual consultation.

Assessment Information

  • 1 x 3500 word essay (100%) [ILOs 1-5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. ENGL30131).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.