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The University of Sheffield

Literature of the English Country House

The University of Sheffield via FutureLearn

Overview

Trace the history and context of country house literature

For over 450 years, country houses have attracted the attention of celebrated writers like Jane Austen and Charles Dickens. On this course 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.

Through the course you will 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.

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.

Taught by

Jim Fitzmaurice

Reviews

4.8 rating, based on 208 Class Central reviews

Start your review of Literature of the English Country House

  • Anonymous
    Thank you so much for assembling this course! Had it not been for the scholarly yet accessible discussion provided by the educators and the judicious selection of extracts to study, I would probably never have explored half the texts covered. I would...
  • Diana Reynolds Roome completed this course.

    This course has been quite a revelation to me in several ways. I had never considered the English country house in relation to literature before, so as I have loved both for years, making a connection between them was very enriching. Decades ago I...
  • Anonymous
    A big Thank You to all of you and your great efforts to lead us through a very interesting course with a lot of food for our brain. It was very interesting to have a share in your expertise, deep knowledge and most of all your enthusiasm for reading literature.

    I guess I will be more aware about discription of country houses, their possible meaning for the story and their distinct architecture. I take away a lot of stimulation, when in future reading a book to do it not only for fun, but I also will try to see intertextuality.
  • Anonymous
    I’m grateful for the opportunity to study this course. It’s wonderfully construed and embraces an analysis of literary works from the early 16th (Thomas More’s Utopia to the late 19th centuries (Oscar Wilde’s plays), thus connecting different epochs into one, ever changing continuity through the image of the country house. For me, this course has revealed new authors, and the authors I was familiar with were presented in a new and unexpected way. I’m especially grateful for getting acquainted with Georgiana Cavendish and for discovering the relation between Ann Radcliff’s and Jane Austen’s works. The lecturers in all these six weeks were not just knowledgeable but artistic and passionate about their subjects. Thanks a lot to the team!
  • Anonymous
    I’m grateful for the opportunity to study this course. It’s wonderfully construed and embraces an analysis of literary works from the early 16th (Thomas More’s Utopia to the late 19th centuries (Oscar Wilde’s plays), thus connecting different epochs into one, ever changing continuity through the image of the country house. For me, this course has revealed new authors, and the authors I was familiar with were presented in a new and unexpected way. I’m especially grateful for getting acquainted with Georgiana Cavendish and for discovering the relation between Ann Radcliff’s and Jane Austen’s works. The lecturers in all these six weeks were not just knowledgeable but artistic and passionate about their subjects. Thanks a lot to the team!
  • Anonymous
    By taking the course Literature of the English Country House I have learned new approaches on the study of english literature and I have enjoyed knowing a bit more of some great literary works and their authors. As most novels and writings studied...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    If you enjoyed English novels, this is a very absorbing, enlightening and interesting course. I have learnt different ways of approaching books; that first reading doesn't always help you to under the entire meanings ( or hidden meanings of a book, as...
  • Anonymous
    This is a gem of a course! Each week focuses on a different era in country house literature, and a different aspect or issue related to the period. The course is extremely well structured and the video lectures are excellent. It has been a while since I have read older literature and the course provided a great reminder of how rewarding and enjoyable it is. Having now completed the course I feel inspired to continue exploring some of the genres covered in the course and to apply the techniques covered to my future reading.

    Overall this is an excellent course; there are exercises each week and having taken the time to complete these and discuss them I feel that I have taken a great deal from the experience. Highly recommended!
  • Anonymous
    This is a well-designed and hugely enjoyable course. The educators wear their expertise lightly, approaching the topic in an accessible yet scholarly way. A mix of videos, articles, activities and dialogue through comment boxes makes for an engaging, varied format. The subject area itself is absolutely fascinating and I loved the fact that the course covers some very well-known country house literature, such as works by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, along with less familiar texts from the 16th to 19th centuries. Would recommend whole-heartedly!
  • Katarzyna Wiktoria Klag

    Katarzyna Wiktoria Klag completed this course, spending 5 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be medium.

    The course was very interesting and engaging, I learnt quite a lot on it and it motivated me to read literature which I have not tried before. The course uses the technique of close reading - short fragments of literary works are close-read (analysed); you do not have to read them in their entirety, but it definitely helps. I enjoyed the lectures which analyse the excerpts in detail and provide new ways of understanding them.
  • Anonymous
    A thoroughly engaging course, with introduction to many new (old) writers and aspects of country house literature, beyond the world of Jane Austen. Great presentations by all the tutors using historic houses as backdrops to discussions - which brought the topics to life. Highly recommended to both general readers and literature buffs.
  • Ann Cowan
    I enjoyed the course a lot and looked forward each week to a new topic. I appreciated the range of teaching/learning styles eg presentation, dialogue between two tutors, video and explanation of text.
    I enjoyed particularly learning about the wider social implications of literacy and also the exercises in close reading of text.
    I didn’t contribute to the discussions between learners as I felt the other students were a lot more knowledgable! I was happy to learn from them.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I strongly recommend this amazing course to all fellow learners! What a remarkable time I had learning about Country House Literature. This course taught me so many new things that have added to my enjoyment of reading. The wonderful videos filmed at...
  • Anonymous
    An excellent introduction to Literature of the English Country House. Each video was well presented and I appreciated reading fellow student's informed responses. Thank you. I'd love to explore more!
  • Sue Batcheler

    Sue Batcheler completed this course.

    This course took me to some unexpected places and was all the more interesting because of it. The variety of authors and types of writing as well as the input from a variety of teachers kept the learning lively, introduced me to some new skills when reading and and some authors and works previously unknown to me. The Country House was the linking theme but this course has provided a much more diverse range of topics as well and for me is a jumping off point to all sorts of other avenues of learning. I also appreciated the constant presence of a Mentor who responded to the discussions and comments from students. I very much recommend it.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    The course spans the lives of several country houses associated with specific authors, poets and playwrights, from Ben Jonson to Oscar Wilde and looks at the way Country House developed, declined and found a new purpose over the centuries. It is presented by a variety of lecturers and professors from the University of Sheffield and without exception they are passionate , engaging and informative about their speciality. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in literature and social history.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Opened my eyes to links between authors and readers.
    Hitherto had not thought about where authors lived and country houses they might have visited.
    For instance...Jane Austen lived 8 years after Chatsworth House was finished. She might have visited but more likely just to have heard about it..
    Living at Chawton ..and not apparently wanting to leave...she left sight of it to her imagination and that of her readers.
    She would not have been disappointed and neither would Elizabeth Bennett !
  • Anonymous
    I enjoyed the course and was introduced to some new genres and new authors. The concept of close reading was new to me and I find myself employing it in my leisure reading although I’m not sure how successful I’ve been without the guidance of the professors. I enjoyed the videos that showed the interiors and exteriors of the country houses helping with me to visualize the discussion topics. I also enjoyed being able to see the old manuscripts and documents. The course was easy to complete with a nice mix of video, readings and questions to think about. The course inspired me to read some of the authors discussed and to revisit some literature that I have already read.
  • Anonymous
    Fantastic course, well structured and engaging throughout. Wonderful range of literature discussed as the course travels through many years of history while looking at the country house and how texts engage with it. The houses visited on the course offer...
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A very interesting course that covered a wide range of literature as well as teaching techniques for close analysis. The first week or two were challenging and would have benefitted from a more detailed explanation of what was expected as it felt like...

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