On this free online course, you’ll investigate and discuss the role and representation of the English country house in literature, and learn how to build your own authoritative interpretation of these texts.
Join us as we trace the history of country house literature
The country house has fascinated writers and readers for over 450 years, attracting the attention of celebrated writers like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, and providing a setting for the performance of literature for writers such as William Shakespeare. We’ll be tracing the history of country house literature, from the sixteenth and seventeenth-century poetry and drama of Thomas More and Margaret Cavendish, through the polite satire and sociability of the eighteenth-century, the Gothic terror and intrigue of Ann Radcliffe and Charles Dickens, all the way through to the dawn of the twentieth century and the wit of Oscar Wilde.
As well as reading extracts from the novels, poetry and drama of these well-known authors, we’ll be exploring lesser known forms and less familiar authors. You’ll encounter manuscripts, newspapers, periodicals and magazines, as well as private poetry and published letters.
Build a literary interpretation
You’ll have the opportunity to learn and practice how to conduct a ‘close reading’ as the basis for your own literary interpretation.
We’ll be joined by experts from the University of Sheffield’s School of English who will share with us the approaches that they take in their own research and what else we can use to build a literary interpretation.
Understand the material conditions
We’ll also be taking you into the University of Sheffield’s Special Collections archive to view country house literature as it originally appeared. We’ll look at the different contexts in which this literature was produced, examining such varied materials as handwritten seventeenth-century manuscripts and early eighteenth-century newspapers.
You’ll be able to think about and discuss the wide variety of ways country house literature has been composed, consumed and received over the centuries.