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Unit information: Gender, Desire and the Renaissance Stage in 2015/16

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Unit name Gender, Desire and the Renaissance Stage
Unit code ENGL20206
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Lesel Dawson
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of English
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This course will examine the way in which gender and desire are represented in a wide range of early modern plays. These depictions will be studied alongside a number of other primary sources - such as conduct books, sumptuary laws, and tracts on witchcraft - to give a sense of the historical conditions that gave rise to the plays, and will be analysed in relation to current ideas within literary theory.


The course will aim to investigate both early modern constructions of sexual difference and desire, and the way in which these notions are conceptualised and articulated in different schools of criticism. This unit intends to introduce students to a wide range of Renaissance drama, in order to raise important issues in the historical construction and theoretical issues surrounding ideas about gender.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, students should have become familiarised with 1) the social, philosophical and intellectual contexts that gave rise to the plays, and 2) with different theoretical approaches to the study of literature. In addition, students should have 3) a more detailed knowledge of Renaissance literature; 4) have improved their ability to analyse literary texts within both a historical and theoretical context; and 5) have strengthened their skills in academic writing.

Teaching details

2 hour seminars in one teaching block, plus 1-to-1 discussion in Consultation Hours where desired.

Assessment Details

  • 1 essay of 2000 words (40%)
  • 1 essay of 3000 words (60%)

Both summative essays map onto ILOs 1-5.

Reading and References

Marlowe, Hero and Leander

Anonymous, Arden of Faversham

Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew

Middleton, A Chaste Maid in Cheapside

Middlton, The Roaring Girl

Ford, ’Tis Pity She’s a Whore