Faculty of Arts

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This unit entry is for students who completed this unit in 2016 only. For students planning to study the unit, please refer to the unit indexes in the the current edition of the Handbook. If you have any queries contact the managing faculty for your course or area of study.

Monash University

6 points, SCA Band 1, 0.125 EFTSL

Undergraduate - Unit

Refer to the specific census and withdrawal dates for the semester(s) in which this unit is offered.



Organisational Unit

Literary Studies


Dr Peter Groves



  • First semester 2016 (Day)


The unit is about how and why we read literature from the past. It addresses the 'foreignness' of Early Modern literature and the challenge of becoming an informed and engaged reader of that literature. The unit will explore both the aesthetic distance between Early Modern writing and the present - what does it mean, for example, to characterize a text as Baroque, or Mannerist, or Gothic, and how appropriate are such terms? - and the thematic concerns of the period itself: its anxious questions about the nature and limits of the human, for example, that were opened up by the breakdown of medieval theological certainty and the rise of science. Such questions will be posed in terms of the political and ideological context of the time: broadly, the gradual but alarming transformation of a static feudal hierarchy into the fluid social order of capitalism, and the challenges posed by (some) women to the limiting assumptions of institutionalized patriarchy.
The unit raises fundamental questions such as: What are we looking for in the texts we read? Can we, or should we, use literature to understand what authors and their contemporary readers thought about an issue: using literary texts as sociological and historical artefacts? Or should we, or do we, read an ever-widening circle of texts as an exercise in pleasure-seeking, or as a way of looking for a universal truth about the human condition, or the nature of truth or beauty?

Students will be encouraged to consider these question via a series of self-guided explorations of literature from the past, relating texts they have chosen to a corpus of contemporary literature.


Students successfully completing the unit will be conversant with:

  1. The problems of interpretation that face readers of literature from the past, especially when they encounter unmediated text;
  2. The generic, aesthetic, thematic and ideological concerns of Early Modern literary works;
  3. The complexity of textual transmission in the period, and its relation to (post-)Romantic notions of authorship;
  4. Critical debates concerning the use of literary texts as sociological and historical artefacts;
  5. Persuasive argumentation of their interpretations in oral and essay form;
  6. The effective communication of ideas and positions in discussion.


Within semester assessment: 100%

Workload requirements

Minimum total expected workload to achieve the learning outcomes for this unit is 144 hours per semester typically comprising a mixture of scheduled learning activities and independent study. A unit requires on average three/four hours of scheduled activities per week. Scheduled activities may include a combination of teacher directed learning, peer directed learning and online engagement.

See also Unit timetable information

Chief examiner(s)

This unit applies to the following area(s) of study


Twelve credit points of first-year Arts units, including at least one gateway unit in literary studies