Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module ENGL42530: John Milton: Life, Work and Influence

Department: English Studies

ENGL42530: John Milton: Life, Work and Influence

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • •Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA in English Literary Studies.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To introduce students to a broad range of the poetical and prose writings by John Milton, one of the key figures of his age and one of the most eminent and influential figures in English literary history.
  • To engage directly with a selection of works from different periods of Milton’s life and in different genres.
  • To encourage students to read closely, help them refine their techniques of textual analysis, and enable them to interpret texts by applying the methods of early modern rhetoric.
  • To enhance students’ appreciation of the texts by developing their awareness of significant literary, cultural and historical contexts.
  • To foster a critical awareness of the diverse and conflicting critical approaches to Milton’s work from the seventeenth century to the present, and to engage actively in the literary debates that his work has prompted.
  • To offer students the opportunity to consider Milton’s influence on either writers.


  • This module will give participants the opportunity to look in detail at:
  • Milton’s early poetical works, including less familiar pieces like the Latin elegies, as well as the famous major works of his artistic maturity, such as Paradise Lost.
  • Milton’s prose writings, including the Areopagitica, and selections from the divorce and polemical tracts.
  • Milton negotiations with the classical tradition (eg Milton’s use of classical genres, allusion and mythology)
  • Topics to be discussed in seminars will include: Milton’s and the art of self-representation, the role of the poet and poetry, sexual politics, religious, political and educational issues. Milton’s influence on later writers.
  • It is expected that course participants familiarise themselves with a demanding reading list and prepare to discuss one or two literary texts per week during the course.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students studying this module will be expected to develop:
  • an advanced knowledge of a diverse range of work by Milton and to be able to suggest cross-currents in the body of his work.
  • an ability to analyse texts closely with an awareness of the shaping effects of generic conventions
  • a deeper understanding of the cultural, literary and intellectual contexts of Milton’s work
  • the ability to engage and enter into debate with the various critical approaches to his writing.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will be expected to develop:
  • advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a range of texts by a single author and critical approaches to his works
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts by Milton
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to Milton’s works at an advanced level
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this author at an advanced level
  • skills of effective communication and persuasive argument
  • a secure and competent handling of the conventions of scholarly presentation, and bibliographic skills, including accurate citation of sources and consistent use of scholarly conventions of presentation
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an advanced understanding of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically
  • an advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways
  • expertise in planning and execution of essays
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning; an advanced ability to handle information and argument critically
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • organisation and time-management skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Through a variety of teaching activities and approaches, seminars will facilitate the development of effective communication and critical skills. Sessions will introduce broad topics and genres, contexts and frameworks to aid conceptual understanding and specific texts for analysis as well as encourage individual interpretation and enquiry. Formative written work and consultation with the module tutor will operate as learning tools, allowing the investigation and testing of ideas and readings. Two summative assignments will assess the competencies and outcomes outlined above and foster advanced independent study.
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Fortnightly 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 3,000 words 50%
Summative essay 3,000 words 50%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of not more than 2,000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University