Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ENGL53530: Renaissance Tragedy

Department: English Studies

ENGL53530: Renaissance Tragedy

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap 10


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module will introduce students to the literary genre of tragedy in the English Renaissance as well as relevant literary, cultural and historical contexts. In the process, we shall consider the classical origins of ideas about tragedy in English Renaissance literature, study early experiments in English tragic drama, and read widely across tragic genres current in the period 1550-1642.
  • The module will 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.
  • It will challenge students to think historically about tragedy and its changing and emerging forms over a period of 100 years.
  • It will enable students to read English Renaissance tragedy holistically in the context of wider European literary developments.


  • The module will give participants the opportunity to look in detail at genres such as neo-Senecan drama, comitragedy, tragic histories, or revenge tragedy. Individual sessions will examine the work of the best-known playwrights of the period (e.g. Marlowe, Webster, Middleton, Jonson or Ford), as well as lesser-known but fascinating tragic writers such as Chapman, Shirley or Marston. Examples of tragic theatre will range from the later sixteenth to the early seventeenth century. We will consider, as appropriate: classical and contemporary theories of tragedy; notions of tragedy present in non-dramatic genres; Continental European analogues.
  • It is expected that course participants familiarise themselves with a demanding reading list and prepare for one or two literary texts per week during the course.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will show good knowledge of tragedies written in the English Renaissance and an awareness of relevant literary, historical and cultural contexts.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary texts;
  • An ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a chosen field of literary studies;
  • An ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • An ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • An ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political and linguistic contexts of literature;
  • An ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • An advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
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;
  • An advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject;
  • Expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • An independence of 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;
  • A competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • Professional organisation and time-management skills

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

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge within seminars.
  • The capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two summative pieces of work (3,000 words in length).
  • 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 Weekly in Epiphany only 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
Essay 3000 words 40%
Essay 3000 words 60%

Formative Assessment:

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