Humour, Opposition, and Literature in Early Modern England ENGLIT5097

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Critical Studies
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 5 (SCQF level 11)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: No
  • Available to Erasmus Students: No

Short Description

This course examines the political and religious use of humour in early modern England. Studying a range of genres and modes including comedy, satire, libel, polemic, and debate, we will consider how humour is used by writers during a period of unprecedented political upheaval. Texts and authors examined include Spenser, Marston, Milton, Marvell, Dryden, and Swift. On this course students will gain a broader knowledge of how the rhetoric of humour is a central weapon in reshaping religious and political identities in early modern England.


1x2 hour seminar per week over 10 weeks

Requirements of Entry

Standard entry to Masters at College level.

Excluded Courses





One summative essay of up to 4,000 words (80%)

One mid-term essay of up to 1,000 words (20%)

Course Aims

The course will enable students to:

a) Discuss critically the ideological use of humour by writers in early modern England.

b) Expand their close reading skills by studying some of the rhetorical and literary techniques used by early modern writers.

c) Actively explain their understanding of key literary and historical debates in early modern studies and establish their own independent critical position through class work, presentations, and written assessments.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to: 

a) Compare critically the varied uses of humour across a range of early modern writings.

b) Explain the texts under consideration by reading them in relation to appropriate primary and secondary sources.

c) Apply their knowledge of literary and historical debates to their reading of the course texts.

d) Explain and use their knowledge of key rhetorical figures and their use in early modern humorous writing.

e) Formulate and defend an independent critical position.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.