Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Academic Year
Intended for use in future years
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2 hour seminars


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment 2 x 3000 word essays  100%
Supplementary Assessment Resubmit or resit failed elements and/or make good any missing elements. 

Learning Outcomes

On completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Demonstrate a broad knowledge of writing by and about women in the period 1550-1666.

2. Show awareness of the main theoretical issues concerning gender difference and writing in the period 1550-1666

3. Analyze critically literary and non-literary texts by men and women

4. Situate literary and non-literary texts within their historical moment, and identify the influence of contemporary debates in politics and religion


Outline Programme:

Week 1: Introduction: Women and Writing in Renaissance England.
Extracts from books on medicine, theology, law, and political theory.

Week 2: Royal Women.
Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) ? selected speeches, poems, letters, and prayers.

Week 3: Martial Women.
Edmund Spenser, Book 3, The Faerie Queene (c. 1596).

Week 4: Women and the City.
Isabella Whitney, `The Last Will and Testament? (1573).
Thomas Dekker and Thomas Middleton, The Roaring Girl (c1607-1610).

Week 5: Women and Speech.
William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew (1594).

Week 6: Women and the querelle des femmes.
Aemilia Lanyer, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611).
John Donne, selected poems from Songs and Sonnets (c. 1593).
Rachel Speght, A Mouzell for Melastomus (1617)

Week 7: Women and Romance.
Mary Wroth, Pamphilia to Amphilanthus (1621).
Selections from Philip Sidney, Astrophil and Stella (1591).

Week 8: Women and Science.
Margaret Cavendish, The Blazing World (1666).

Week 9: Women and the Literary Marketplace.
Hester Pulter, 'Poems Breathed Forth by the Noble Hadassa' (1640-1660s).
Katherine Philips (1632-1664), selected poems.

Week 10: Did Englishwomen have a Renaissance?
Revision seminar, dicussing the themes raised in the module and selected extracts from feminist criticism.


In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf asked 'why women did not write poetry in the Elizabethan age'. Unable to find any examples of Elizabethan women writers, Woolf invented the imaginary 'Judith Shakespeare', who might have enjoyed a career as successful as that of her brother William, had she only been born a man. In fact, many women wrote during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including Queen Elizabeth I herself.

This module will explore some of the writings by and about Renaissance women, and will examine a range of genres, from poems, drama, prose, and fiction, to prophecies, letters, polemics, and philosophy. Each week, we'll focus on a particular woman writer or on a male-authored work in which the representation of women is of central importance. The texts will be read within the contexts of the life and social milieu of the author, her or his political and religious affiliations, and the historical moment. Wherever possible, writings by women will be set in 'conversation' with male-authored works of the same period or genre, thus enabling an assessment of the role of gender difference in helping shape literary and authorial identity in Renaissance England.

Brief description

This module will focus on writing by and about women of the English Renaissance (1550-1666), and will explore the religious, political, and cultural issues relevant to the time.

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Communication written communication through the production of essays oral communication in the form of seminar discussions and presentations (not assessed)
Improving own Learning and Performance developing own research skills, management of time
Information Technology use of electronic resources (EEBO); production of written work
Problem solving formulating and developing an extended argument
Research skills developing independent study
Subject Specific Skills Detailed analysis of literary and cultural texts and evaluation of broad intellectual concepts
Team work presentations will be give by teams of two or three

Reading List

Recommended Background
Beilin, Elaine V. (July 2008) Early Tudor Women Writers:Vol. 1 Lund Humphries Publishers [Imprint] Primo search Hannay, Margaret P. (June 2009) Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England 1550-1700:Volume 2:Mary Sidney Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search Kinney, Clare R. (July 2009) Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England. 1550-1700:Volume 4:Mary Wroth Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search Mendelson, Sara H. (July 2009) Margaret Cavendish Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search Raber, Karen (July 2009) Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England 1550-1700:Volume 7:Elizabeth Cary Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search Suzuki, Mihoko (July 2009) Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England 1550-1700:Volume 5:Anne Clifford and Lucy Hutchinson Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search White, Micheline (June 2009) Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England 1550-1700:Vol. 3: Isabella Whitney Aemilia Lanyer and Anne Lock Ashgate Publishing, Limited Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 6