31031 - English Literature 1 (A-L)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2023/2024

Course contents

Performing history, identity and gender in English literature and theatre from Medieval to Early Modern Age.

The course intends to investigate the formation of the English identity and the construction of different forms of otherness during the early modern age. Moving from the historical and cultural background, it will focus on the analysis of some emblematic texts that belong to different literary and theatrical genres (travel report, treatise, tragedy and comedy, prose writing). These texts will be studied in dialogue with English/British history and England’s view of Rome and the ideology of tranlsatio imperii, the political discourses and English colonial politics. They will be also explored in their interconnection with issues of gender and race and in dialogue with the representation/conception of the body (male and female) and its various functions in the religious, scientific, and medical knowledge of the age.

The course will also explore the “drama”, its language, and its performative dimension as well as its interaction and negotiation with the treatises and pamphlets against the theatre, the actors, the theatre owners, the City, the monarchical power, and the spectators that were present during the performance.


Lessons will be also devoted to the introduction and analysis of English literature and culture from the Medieval age to the Restoration through the reading of some extracts taken from emblematic literary texts:

Everyman; G. Chaucer, Canterbury Tales (General Prologue); W. Shakespeare, 4 Sonnets; E. Spenser, A View of the Present State of Ireland, Faerie Queen; J. Donne, Songs and Sonnets; Francis Bacon, New Atlantis, J. Milton, Paradise Lost.


Primary Sources:

Theatre: Students should read at least 2 texts from the following reading list


C. Marlowe, Dr. Faustus

W. Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus

W. Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

W. Shakespeare, Cymbeline

Prose writing: Students should read at least one text:

T. More, Utopia, 1516

A. Behn, Oroonoko, 1688

Secondary Sources:

Doran Susan, Virginity, Divinity and Power: The Portraits of Elizabeth I”, in Doran S., Freeman T. S (eds) The Myth of Elizabeth, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2003. (online: http://www.history.ac.uk/ihr/Focus/Elizabeth/Doran_Chapter_7.pdf (obbligatorio)

Ferguson, Margaret W., “Juggling the categories of race, class, and gender: Aphra Behn's Oroonoko”, pp. 209-224, in Hendricks Margo and Patricia Parker (eds.) Women, Race and Writing in the Early Modern Period, London, New York, Routledge, 1994.

Golinelli Gilberta, “Introduzione”, in Il testo shakespeariano dialoga con i nuovi storicismi, il materialismo culturale e gli studi di genere, Bologna, I libri di Emil, 2012 pp. 9-34.

Hall S., Ethnicity: Identity and Difference. Speech delivered at Hampshire College. (obbligatorio)

Howard Jean E., “The Theatre, and Gender Struggle in Early Modern England”, Shakespeare Quarterly, Vol. 39, n. 4 pp. 418-440. (obbligatorio)

Kahn Coppélia, Roman Shakespeare. Warriors, Wounds, and Women, Routledge, London and New York. (selected chapters)

Loomba A. “Outsiders in Shakespeare's England”, in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, eds by M. de Grazia and S. Wells, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 147-166. (obbligatorio).

Serpieri A., 2010, “Body and History in the Political Rhetoric of Julius Caesar”, in Maria del Sapio Garbero, Nancy Isenberg, Maddalena Pennacchia (eds), Questioning Bodies in Shakespeare’s Rome, V&Runipress, Goettingen, pp. 219-236.

Traub Valery, “Gender and sexuality in Shakespeare’s England”, in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare, eds. Margareta de Grazia, Stanley Wells, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2001, pp. 129-146. (obbligatorio)

Vaughan V. M., Vaughan A. T., 1997, “Before Othello: Elizabethan Representations of Sub-Saharan Africans”, The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd series, Vol. LIV, n. 1, pp. 19-44. (obbligatorio)

Watt Ian, “The Tragycall History of the Life and Death of Dr. Fastus. The English Faust Book”, In Myths of Modern Individual, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996, pp. 27-47

Vieira, Fatima, “The Concept of Utopia”, in Gregory Claeys (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Utopian Literature, pp. 3-27.

Matthew Dimmock, "Awareness and Expericences of the outside world", in S. Doran and N. Jones eds. The Elizabethan World, New York, Routledge, 2011 (obbligatorio

Teaching methods

Frontal lessons aiming to provide students with some critical tools to approach literary texts, both in terms of linguistic analysis and of historical and cultural contextualization. Films based on Shakespeare’s works.

Assessment methods

Two different options are possible:

1) A written test followed by an oral exam suggested to those students who attended classes regularly.

The written test will take place only once, at the end of the course, and will assess the students' knowledge of the main lines of English literature from the Medieval age to late XVII century. After this part, if the student passes the written text, there will be an oral interview on the primary reading list analysed during the course. The written text will take place only one time at the end of the course.

2) Oral examination: for those students who do not attend classes or do not take the written text there will be an oral examination on the history of English literature from the Medieval age to the Seventeenth century (Restoration) and on the primary reading list analysed during the course.

NB: Those students, who are able to demonstrate a wide and systematic understanding of the issues covered during the classes, are able to use these critically and who master the field-specific language of the discipline will be given a mark of excellence. Those students who demonstrate a mnemonic knowledge of the subject with a more superficial analytical ability and ability to synthesize, a correct command of the language but not always appropriate, will be given a satisfactory mark. A superficial knowledge and understanding of the material, a scarce analytical and expressive ability that is not always appropriate will be rewarded with a ‘pass’ mark. Students who demonstrate gaps in their knowledge of the subject matter, inappropriate language use, lack of familiarity with the literature in the program bibliography will not be given a pass mark.

Teaching tools

Power point presentations. The Powerpoint files that will be used during the course will be available for students on the Insegnamenti Online website: https://iol.unibo.it/ .

Office hours

See the website of Gilberta Golinelli