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Handbooks Courses Units

HYM4115 - Private and Public Voices in Renaissance Correspondence

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: Carolyn James


Not offered in 2008


This subject introduces the theoretical and conceptual frameworks appropriate to a study of Renaissance letters. It will analyse the development of the letter as a self-conscious literary genre but also dwell on more private correspondence, never meant for publication. Letters are essential sources, particularly for the social historian, and the insights and problems associated with using different kinds of letters as historical documents - whether they are carefully-crafted epistles drafted and redrafted by humanists and famous writers; practical, everyday communication; or even messages dictated to a scribe by the illiterate - will be the particular focus of discussion and analysis.


Students who complete this subject:

  1. Will have a thorough knowledge of the Renaissance letter collections chosen for study.

  1. Will understand the social or intellectual context in which the letters were written.

  1. Will be able to distinguish between different types of letters, through recognition of formal elements and the development of a critical perspective on the writer's audience and intentions.

  1. Will have developed an awareness of how gender, levels of literacy and exposure to classical literary models influenced both male and female letter writers.

  1. Will be able to engage in discussion of letters as historical evidence and demonstrate strong skills in the critical reading of historical scholarship that uses such evidence.

  1. Will be able to organise and defend an historical argument using appropriate letter collections, as well as other types of primary and secondary evidence.

  1. Students taking this subject at level five have the additional objectives of acquiring a greater degree of analytical skills, a deeper understanding of the key conceptual and methodological issues and a stronger degree of independence in locating and evaluating both primary and secondary historical resources.


Research essay (5000 words): 50%
Historiographical exercise (2000 words): 20%
Individual or group seminar presentation and paper (2000 words): 20%
Seminar participation: 10%

Contact hours

2 hours per week


Major in Historical Studies

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