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The Renaissance: Desire in Poetry and Drama from Shakespeare to Milton

Code: 42302 ECTS Credits: 6
Degree Type Year Semester
4313157 Advanced English Studies OT 0 0
The proposed teaching and assessment methodology that appear in the guide may be subject to changes as a result of the restrictions to face-to-face class attendance imposed by the health authorities.


Jordi Coral Escola

Use of Languages

Principal working language:
english (eng)


Joan Curbet Soler


Apart from the general requirements for admission to the programme, students who decide to do this module should have a genuine interest in early modern literature and its contexts, though they will not be expected to have detailed knowledge of the period.  

Objectives and Contextualisation

The course offers a detailed survey of the various representations of female desire in the English Renaissance, which is considered here not isolation but in the larger context of the European Renaissance. We will approach the multiple configurations and transformations of female identity in this period in its relation to desire, understanding this latter term in the widest possible sense, that is, both as biologically and culturally conditioned and in relation to the social conventions against which it often asserts itself. 

Our aim will be to show how in the work of Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton, as well as in that of some women writers of the period, female desire is presented as an object of endless fascination and fear, that is,  as an impulse and transformative force that seems to call for constant regimentation and control, but which often challenges external constraints.

Each of the course unites will examine two principal texts: a text written in the period and a critical interpretation that reflects the contemporary engagement with the text.  


  • Analyse and synthesise information at an advanced level.
  • Analyse the relationship between factors, processes or phenomena in the acquisition of English as a second language, its learning and teaching methods, and its literature, history and culture.
  • Apply methodological knowledge of statistical analysis and data generation, treatment and codification of multilingual databases, analysis of literary texts, etc. to research.
  • Communicate the knowledge acquired and the contributions of one’s research correctly, accurately and clearly both orally and in writing.
  • Critically argue, issue judgements and present ideas on the basis of the analysis of information originating from scientific production in these areas.
  • Develop autonomous learning skills applicable to the research process.
  • Distinguish and contrast between the different methodological and theoretical models applied to the academic study of the acquisition, teaching and use of English as a second language in multilingual and multicultural contexts, literary studies and cultural studies.
  • Show respect towards the opinions, values, behaviours and/or practices of others.
  • Use the English language for academic and professional purposes related to research into the acquisition, teaching and use of English as a second language in multilingual and multicultural contexts, literary studies and cultural studies.

Learning Outcomes

  1. Analyse and interpret at an advanced level literary texts on desire in English Literary and specifically in the Theatre and Poetry of the 16th and 17th centuries
  2. Analyse and interpret at an advanced level scientifically produced texts about desire in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth English Poetry and Plays, extracting relevant citations and making content summaries
  3. Analyse and synthesise information at an advanced level.
  4. Communicate the knowledge acquired and the contributions of one’s research correctly, accurately and clearly both orally and in writing.
  5. Develop autonomous learning skills applicable to the research process.
  6. Distinguish and contrast the different theoretical and methodological models applied to the academic study of desire in English Poetry and Theatre of the 16th and 17th centuries..
  7. Draft texts defending an idea in relation to a poetical or theatrical text in English from the 16th of 17th century, applying secondary sources to the critical argumentation.
  8. Make oral presentation in English on subjects and texts related to advanced research of English Poetry and English Theatre of the 16th and 17th centuries.
  9. Read, analyse and present the conclusions regarding texts that represent desire in Poetry and Theatre from Shakespeare to Milton.
  10. Show respect towards the opinions, values, behaviours and/or practices of others.




UNIT 1: Shakespeare's Sonnets and Selected Poetry of John Donne 

UNIT 2: The Winter's Tale  



UNIT 3: Sonnets by Philip Sidney, Edmund Spenser and Mary Wroth 

UNIT 4: Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book III   



See the table below

Annotation: Within the schedule set by the centre or degree programme, 15 minutes of one class will be reserved for students to evaluate their lecturers and their courses or modules through questionnaires.


Title Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Type: Directed      
Debates and discussion in class 50 2 2, 1, 5, 6, 9
Reading and Research 50 2 2, 1, 3, 5, 9
Tutorials 25 1 3, 4, 5, 6, 9, 8


The teaching methodology and the evaluation proposed in the guide may undergo some modification subject to the onsite teaching restrictions imposed by health authorities.



Assessment of this module will be based on the following percentatges:

Class attendance and participation (debates, text analysis, etc.) 30%

Class Presentation 20%

Essay Writing (2,500 words) 50%  



Re-assessment will take the form of a content-synthesis exam or activity:  

To be eligible for re-assessment students must have

a) obtained an average of 3,5 or higher;

b) have passed at least 50% of the activities;

Students whose retakes are successful will obtain a maximum final grade of 7 (Notable). 



VERY IMPORTANT: Total or partial plagiarism of any of the exercises will automatically be considered “fail” (0) for the plagiarized item. Plagiarism is copying one or more sentences from unidentified sources, presenting it as original work (THIS INCLUDES COPYING PHRASES OR FRAGMENTS FROM THE INTERNET AND ADDING THEM WITHOUT MODIFICATION TO A TEXT WHICH IS PRESENTED AS ORIGINAL). Plagiarism is a serious offense. Students must learn to respect the intellectual property of others, identifying any source they may use, and take responsibility for the originality and authenticity of the texts they produce.

IMPORTANT: In the event of a student committing any irregularity that may lead to a significant variation in the grade awarded to an assessment activity, the student will be given a zero for this activity, regardless of any disciplinary process that may take place. In the event of several irregularities in assessment activities of the same subject, the student will be given a zero as the final grade for this subject.

In the event that tests or exams cannot be taken onsite, they will be adapted to an online format made available through the UAB’s virtual tools (original weighting will be maintained). Homework, activities and class participation will be carried out through forums, wikis and/or discussion on Teams, etc. Lecturers will ensure that students are able to access these virtual tools, or will offer them feasible alternatives



Assessment Activities

Title Weighting Hours ECTS Learning Outcomes
Class participation 30% 5 0.2 2, 1, 3, 4, 10, 5, 8
Class presentation 20% 10 0.4 2, 1, 4, 10, 5, 6, 9
Essay writing 50% 10 0.4 2, 1, 3, 5, 6, 9, 7


Basic Reading: 

Clemen, Wolfgang, The Development of Shakespeare’s Imagery, Methuen, 1977.

De Grazia, Margreta and Wells, Stanley (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, CUP, 2001.

Frye, Northrop, Northrop Frye on Shakespeare, Yale University Press, 1986.

Greenblatt, Stephen. The Swerve, How the Renaissance Began. London: Vintage Books, 2012.

Gray, Catharine. Women Writers and Public Debate in Seventeenth-Century Britain. New York: Palgrave, 2007.

Guibbory, Achsah, The Cambridge Companion to John Donne, Cambridge University Press, 2006. 

Kermode, Frank, Shakespeare’s Language. London: Penguin Books, 2000.

Kott, Jan, Shakespeare Our Contemporary. London: Methuen, 1964.

Levi, Anthony. Renaissance and Reformation: Intellectual Genesis. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.

MacCulloch, Diarmaid. Reformation: Europe’s House Divided. London: Penguin Books, 2003.

Matchinske, Megan. Writing, Gender and State in Early Modern England: Identity Formation and the Female Subject. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Norbrook, David. The Penguin Book of Renaissance Verse. London: Penguin, 2005.

Novy, Marianne. Shakespeare and Outsiders. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Nuttal, A.D., Shakespeare the Thinker, New Haven: Yale UP, 2007.

Patterson, Annabel. John Milton. London: Longman, 1991.

Scott Elledge (ed.), John Milton: Paradise Lost. New York: Norton, 1993.

Smith, Emma. This is Shakespeare. New York: Random House, 2020. 

Zwicker, Steven N. The Cambridge Companion to English Literature 1650:1740. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.


Digital Sources:

The Shakespeare Resource Centre, http://www.bardweb.net/

Society for the Study of Early Modern Women: http://ssemw.org/

Center for Renaissance and Baroque Studies: http://www.crbs.umd.edu/index.shtml


Not used for this module