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Unit information: History through Literature in Early Modern Europe in 2015/16

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Unit name History through Literature in Early Modern Europe
Unit code HIST30022
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Cervantes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The early modern period saw the rise of a number of great literary figures that are still widely read and enjoyed nowadays. In the English speaking world, Shakespeare is often regarded as the greatest writer of all times; elsewhere he is often rivalled by his Spanish contemporary, Miguel de Cervantes. Both writers seem to have been influenced by their French contemporary, Michel de Montaigne. The unit will give students the opportunity to use a selection of the works of these three writers as historical sources that shed light upon major themes in early modern intellectual history. Among these are Humanism and its reception; the impact of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation on European thought; shifts in the early modern understanding of knowledge; the relationship between language and reality; the discovery of America; and the early modern notion of the self.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: 1. a detailed and in-depth knowledge and understanding of the use of key literary works from the early modern period as historical sources; 2. the ability to work at an advanced level with primary sources; 3. the ability to integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider historical analysis; 4. the ability to learn independently within a small-group context; 5. a deeper awareness of how to approach a long term historical analysis; 6. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points; 7. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to group discussion; 8. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 9. the acquisition of advanced writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour seminar Access to tutorial advice with unit tutor in consultation hours.

Assessment Information

3,500 word essay (50%) 2-hour unseen written exam (50%)

Reading and References

Erich Auerbach, Mimesis (1948). William Bouwsma, The Waning of the Renaissance (2000). Stuart Clark, Vanities of the Eye (2007). Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation (2003). A. D. Nuttall, Shakespeare the Thinker (2007). Jeremy Robbins, The Challenges of Uncertainty (1998)