Special lecture in British studies


Welcome to my lecture course on literature, culture & society, 1500-1700 .

The first class is on Wednesday, April 12, at 9:15, in building 6, room 402.

The main aim of this course is to give students an insight into the society and culture of England during the early modern period. This was the age in which the Church in Europe divided itself into two main branches (the Reformation), the age of Shakespeare, Milton and many other great writers, the age when sciencce and discovery began to overtake religion and superstition.

It was also a period of great cruelty. People were beheaded, burned and hanged for their political and religious beliefs, and these executions took place in public. Belief in witchcraft still persisted, and witch hunts were fairly common, with the victims being tortured into confessing before being put to death.

There was tremendous upheaval in society; the first of the major European revolutions was in seventeenth-century England, and ended with the king having his head chopped off.

It was an age of exploration and colonisation, and the first steps that would later lead to the British Empire were taken at this time.

At the same time, many of the social and political structures that shape our modern world started to develop. Newspapers, coffee shops, banks, etc., all formed part of daily life by the end of the seventeenth century.

For more details of life in early modern times please visit my blog.

Click HERE for the course syllabus.

Please familiarize yourselves with my web pages, as they contain a lot of information that will be useful for you as a member of the English Literature department at Sophia.


LESSON 1 (April 12):

Today's lesson didn't go entirely according to plan because, for some reason, Dropbox failed to upload the latest version of the PowerPoint file into my Macbook. I'm sorry about that!

Here is the correct version of the PowerPoint:

Henry VIII and England's break with the Church of Rome

It includes the information we covered in class, along with some extra details that were not in the classroom version.

And these are the class prints:

Complete version

With gaps

As I explained in class, the gap exercise isn't intended as a test, and you are free to complete it from the PowerPoint or from the complete version, as you please. The purpose is just to help you to remember some of the key points.

I gave some information on the earlier historical background during today's lesson. If you are interested in the history of Britain before the sixteenth century, please check the following:

I have started a blog for this lecture here. This is a private blog; only members of this course can see it and make posts or comments on it. To join the blog, you need to email me and I will send you an invitation. Please use the blog to ask questions, make comments, etc. It's your blog - please use it!

LESSON 2 (April 19)

Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn

Today's lesson began with some more details of the life of Henry VIII. One of the most dramatic episodes of his reign was the beheading of Anne Boleyn, his second wife. After three years of marriage, she had had a daughter, but failed to give him the son he wanted. It is also possible that he was simply bored with her.

The official account is that she had sexual relations with a number of other men, including her own brother, but many historians doubt the truth of this. These men were also put to death. It is possible that these men were the victims of some kind of power struggle. Perhaps Henry, or others close to Henry, saw an advantage in getting rid of these people.

One possibility (which I didn't actually mention in today's lecture) is that Henry may have suffered from a medical condition that made it difficult for him to father children. After all, he slept with many women but only a few of them bore his child. If Anne knew this it is possible she might have slept with other men in a desperate attempt to get pregnant.

The last days of Anne Boleyn: Extracts from the BBC series "The Tudors"

Whatever the truth of the accusations against her, one thing is certain. Anne was beheaded on May 19, 1536. A few years later, Henry's fifth wife was faced with similar accusations and met a similar death. Altogether, Henry married six times.

The Reformation

Last week we looked at Henry's divorce and England's initial break with the Catholic Church. This week I cover the broader issues that gave rise to the Reformation.

The Reformation in England: background and causes

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

LESSON 3 (April 26)

This lesson on Mary I and Elizabeth I, the Tudor queens who ruled England, is the last basic history lesson for the sixteenth century. After Golden Week we will be looking at various aspects of the culture and society and literature of the period.

Mary and Elizabeth: the Tudor queens

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

Please don't forget about the class blog. This link takes you to the dashboard. From there you can make a new post or view the blog and comment on other people's posts.

LESSON 4 (May 10)

Today's lecture was on Shakespeare and religion. It's divided into two parts. The first part is Shakespeare and Catholicism, showing how the Catholic culture was still very much alive and influential in Shakespeare's day:

Shakespeare and Catholicism

The second part is Shakespeare and the Bible. I didn't quite have time to finish this, but one critic (mentioned right at the end) goes so far as to say that if it had not been for Tyndale's translation of the Bible Shakespeare could not have written as he did, and basically I think that is true:

Shakespeare and the Bible

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

There will be a mid-term test on June 7th. It will consist of 30 multiple-choice questions. The test will cover material from the prints and PowerPoint presentations, so please go to the class web page and revise these. Please also read through the posts and comments on the blog, as I may base one or two questions on material from there as well. Further posts to the blog are always welcome!

I will also collect prints 1-7 on June 7th.


LESSON 5 (May 17)

Today we focused on the early modern view of suffering. That may seem like a strange topic, but in fact it is one of the central features that make the early modern period different from our modern world. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, there were very few medical ways to gain relief from suffering, criminals and others were made to endure being whipped, hanged, burned and other punishments in public, and people believed that they would burn in hell and suffer eternally if they did not follow the teachings of the Bible properly. It is hardly surprising that they thought about suffering very differently from the way we do.


Suffering and religion

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)


LESSON 6 (May 24)

Women in early modern England. The PowerPoint presentation wasn't quite as I wanted it, as it seems I have deleted one of the files I was planning to use. Basically, though, most of the main points are on these two presentations...

Women in sixteenth-century England


Early modern gender


Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

You may also find some useful additional material on the following video:

Early modern women and society

LESSON 7 (May 31)

Something went wrong with the recording today, so here is a version of the PowerPoint from a lecture I gave last year. Basically, we have reached the end of the sixteenth century, and the purpose of this lesson is to take a look at where England stands, in terms of politics, religion, art, music and literature, at the end of the Tudor period.


The Tudor legacy



Don't forget that there will be a mid-term test on June 7th. Revise the PowerPoint videos and prints on this page, including the lesson on May 31, and check the material on the blog.


LESSON 8 (June 7)

The beginning of the Stuart period: James I


James I

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)


The Gunpowder Plot

Dictation (gaps)

Dictation (complete)


LESSON 9 (June 14)

Charles I and the slide into Civil War


Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)


LESSON 10 (June 21)

The Restoration and the Glorious Revolution


Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)


LESSON 11 (June 28)

Women, education and society in seventeenth-century England

Something went wrong and my voice did not come out in the recording of today's class. Here is a previous version of this presentation, from a lecture I gave last year. It repeats a few things from last week's lecture, but it basically covers today's material:


Women, education and society

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)


LESSON 12 (July 5)

Women and gender in seventeenth-century England. This lecture delelops some of the themes discussed in lesson 11 and takes a look at some of the actual writings of early modern female authors.

Women and gender

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

Remember, your term paper is due at the end of this month. Please email me at least once a week to discuss your paper and show me how it is developing. This is part of the coursework and will be evaluated when I do the grading! There are some video presentations on thesis statements and essay structure here, which you may find useful.

Also remember that there will be a final test on July 19th. Like the mid-term test, it will consist of 30 multiple-choice questions. I will be testing you on the material presented in lessons 8-13.

LESSON 13 (July 12)

Two major puritan writers of the seventeenth century.

John Milton


John Bunyan

Class print (gaps)

Class print (complete)

Please bring prints 8-13 to the next class.

I'm sorry to be so late posting this; I thought I'd done it and only realized I hadn't on Tuesday afternoon!






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