LIT3054 : Desire and Identity: English Renaissance Sonnets

Convener(s): Professor Cathy Shrank


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

Since the early sixteenth century, sonnets - and Petrarchan styles of writing - have been imitated, parodied, and pigeon-holed as the histrionic outpourings of an abject, suffering male self. This module seeks a broader, more nuanced understanding of the ways in which English poets responded to, and utilized, the Renaissance sonnet. As well as looking at sonnets as amorous (and often erotic) poetry, addressed to and written by both men and women, we will examine their use as a mode of autobiographical writing (structuring experience), as a medium for advice and homosocial bonding, as a form for religious meditation, and as a genre which is intensely self-reflective about, and self-conscious of, its status as writing.

The module also provides valuable experience for anyone considering a career in editing or publishing. Using Renaissance sonnets as a lens, it considers how editors, printers and publishers shape the texts we read.

Writers studied include: Thomas Wyatt; Anne Locke; Mary, Queen of Scots; Philip Sidney; Samuel Daniel; Edmund Spenser; Richard Barnfield; William Shakespeare; John Donne; and Mary Wroth.


We meet twice a week for 50 minutes; the first session usually takes the format of an informal lecture, with plenty of opportunity for you to ask questions; the second session is a seminar. One lecture is replaced by an editing workshop, which prepares you for the first assessment.


The first assessment (30%) will be a critical analysis (1,000 words) of a modern edition of a collection of Renaissance sonnets. For your second assessment (20%) you will work in twos or threes to edit a pamphlet of sonnets. The third assessment (50%) will be a 2,000-word essay, on a topic of your choice, devised with advice from the module convenor.

Contact Details

Professor Cathy Shrank

Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:40:25 PM (BST)

Please note: This module may or may not run in any individual session. Please check with the course convener.


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK