• The University of Sheffield

Literature of the English Country House

A journey through the literature of English country houses from the time of Thomas More to Oscar Wilde

52,144 enrolled on this course

English country house
  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Trace the history and context of country house literature

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.

For over 450 years, country houses have attracted the attention of celebrated writers like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. We’ll trace this history with experts from the University of Sheffield’s School of English who will share with us the approaches that they take in their own research.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 18 seconds The country house has been a subject in English literature for well over 500 years. It’s just as prominent in the writing of early modern figures, like William Shakespeare and Ben Jonson, as it is in the writing of today. In this course, you’ll read the country house literature of some of our most celebrated authors. From famous authors like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens to writers you might be less familiar with like Joseph Addison and Georgiana Duchess of Devonshire. The country house offers an excellent way into the history of English literature and prompts questions like, how is the country house portrayed? What does it represent? What are the enduring appeals to writers and readers?

Skip to 1 minute and 2 seconds We’ll also be taking you into the Special Collections archive at The University of Sheffield. There we’ll explore different ways of writing about the English country house. Of course, we’ll read novels, poetry and plays, but we’ll also consider other genres of writing, like letters, newspapers and periodicals. The archive allows us to reconstruct and revisit country house literature as it originally appeared. We’ll examine handwritten manuscripts and we’ll think about how a mere fragment can come to be a literary text and a window into the past.

Skip to 1 minute and 39 seconds In order to develop a literary interpretation, we’ll learn and practise close reading. This approach focuses on style. It allows us to read between the lines and get under the skin of the text. We’ll speak to scholars at The University of Sheffield about the approaches they take in their research. They will help us to place our close readings in context. These perspectives include history, politics, gender and the connections between different works.

Skip to 2 minutes and 16 seconds By the end of the course, you’ll learn how to produce your own literary interpretations, informed by the material conditions of the production and circulation of texts. You’ll place your readings into context with the help of a wide variety of research approaches. So join us as we embark on our tour of the country house in English literature.

What topics will you cover?

  • Extracts from novels, manuscripts, poetry and drama
  • Selected works from Thomas More, Margaret Cavendish, Jane Austen, Ann Radcliffe, Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde
  • Lesser known forms of texts and less familiar authors
  • Literary research approaches of experts from the University of Sheffield School of English
  • The material conditions in which country house literature originally appeared
  • The contexts within which literature was originally produced
  • The history of country house literature, from the sixteenth to the twentieth century
  • View the stunning country house locations which inspired works of literature throughout the centuries

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate 'close reading' skills as the basis for your own literary interpretation
  • Discuss the wide variety of ways country house literature has been composed, consumed and received over the centuries
  • Engage with extracts from novels, poetry and drama from well-know authors as well as lesser known forms of writing from less familiar authors
  • Investigate the role and representation of the English country house in literature
  • Build your own literary interpretation of literature
  • Explore literature in its original form and the context within which it was first written

Who is the course for?

This course is suitable for anyone who enjoys reading and discussing literary texts in English. It may also help those who are preparing for further study in English Literature, as it gives a good foundation in analysing texts. If you are already at degree level in English or another subject, this course could be a good supplement to your studies. Ultimately though, this course is suitable for anyone who loves country houses and great literature.

What do people say about this course?

I have told lots of people about this course.

"I have told lots of people about this course as I have found it so enjoyable and I look forward to sitting at my laptop to learn more everyday."

I could do this class again and again.

"I have done this course before but wanted to refresh my learning - what a joy! I think I could do this class again and again and still find something intriguing."

Who will you learn with?

Working in the School of English at the University of Sheffield, we all have a fascination with English country houses, a love of great literature and a desire to share our knowledge with you.

Who developed the course?

The University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s top 100 universities with a reputation for teaching and research excellence.

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