HS3SLM-Landscapes of the Mind: Romanticism and the Rural Idyll, c.1750-1939

Module Provider: History
Number of credits: 40 [20 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2020/1

Module Convenor: Dr Jeremy Burchardt
Email: j.burchardt@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Specials aim to provide 'hands-on' experience of the historian's task through close examination and evaluation of primary sources and the light they shed on issues and problems. This particular module studies a wide range of cultural media (including art, literature and music) in relation to the place of the countryside in English culture in the period.


Specials aim to provide 'hands-on' experience of the historian's task through close examination and evaluation of primary sources and the light they shed on issues and problems. This particular module studies a wide range of cultural media (including art, literature and music) in relation to the place of the countryside in English culture in the period.

Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module it is expected that the student will be able to:

  • recognise and interpret a range of different primary materials

  • undertake detailed textual analysis and comment on the primary materials

  • achieve a detailed command of varying historical interpretations of the primary materials and subject as a whole

  • organise material and articulate arguments effectively in writing under timed conditions

  • deploy primary materials to shed light on the issues and problems being studied

Additional outcomes:

This module also aims to encourage the development of oral communication skills and the student’s effectiveness in group situations. Students will also develop their IT skills by use of relevant web resources.

Outline content:

This module looks at the central role the countryside has played in English culture since the eighteenth century, focusing particularly on Romanticism and its influence. The cultural centrality of the countryside is paradoxical since during this period rural England has become economically, socially and political marginal. Part of the explanation is that, as Raymond Williams influentially showed in his classic study The Country and the City (1973), representations of the co untryside are not only a response to the countryside itself but also act as a mirror to powerful changes affecting society as a whole, in particular urbanisation, industrialisation and the rise of capitalism. The concept of 'the countryside' was a creation of the modern period, and we will look at the significance of the English landscape garden in establishing a distinction between land as a productive resource and landscape as an aesthetic amenity. Perhaps even more important was the t ransformation accomplished by literary romanticism in the 1790s and early 1800s: by infusing landscape with spiritual meaning, the romantic poets created a way of responding to the countryside which in many respects continues to inform perceptions of rural England to this day. Amongst other themes we will consider are the rise of the regional novel in the nineteenth century, the evolution of English landscape painting and the ruralist tradition in English music, notably through the folk revival and the classical composers such as Vaughan Williams and Finzi who were influenced by it. 

This module involves a study of the rich variety of ways in which creative artists have deployed the countryside in their work by looking at a broad spectrum of art forms including literature, painting, landscape gardening and music. Students will be given an unusual opportunity to experience and assess first-hand a very wide range of cultural media in relation to a single overarch ing theme.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

The teaching for this module involves weekly two-hour discussion seminars. Students will gain ‘hands-on’ experience of the historian’s task through the detailed evaluations of key texts, and the light they shed on the issues and problems being investigated. Students will be required to prepare for seminars through reading from both the primary sources and the secondary literature. Students are expected to carry out self-directed revision in the summer term. St aff will be available for consultation as necessary.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 22 22
Tutorials 2
Guided independent study: 176 178
Total hours by term 198 202
Total hours for module

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 40
Written assignment including essay 60

Summative assessment- Examinations:

A two-hour paper involving detailed commentary on extracts from the sources studied.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Students will write two essays (each constituting 30% of the overall mark for the module) to be submitted electronically, the first by 12 noon on the Monday of Week 1 in the spring term, the second by 12 noon on the Wednesday of Week 11 in the spring term. Each essay shall not exceed 3,000 words, excluding footnotes and bibliography. Essays which exceed the word limit by more than 5% will incur a penalty of five marks. Candidates will be rewarded for making appropriate use of the prescribed texts.

Formative assessment methods:

Formative work, for instance seminar presentations, book reviews, posters, practice source commentaries, will be required for this Special Subject over the two terms.

For each class there will be 'set texts' which you will be asked to read/look at/listen to and think about. These set texts will include visual and aural material such as paintings and music. You should be ready to answer questions on these 'set texts' during the relevant class and the gobbet questions of the exam will also be based on these texts.

For some classes you will be asked to prepare a short presentation (typically no more than five to ten minutes long) describing and commenting on a particular text. In addition, you may be asked to prepare one or two longer seminar presentations each term (about twenty minutes).

In addition to the set texts and other primary sources you should read as much secondary source material as possible. Some of the more important secondary sources are listed in the bibliography.

Penalties for late submission:

The Support Centres will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.
The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

Assessment requirements for a pass:

A mark of 40% overall.

Reassessment arrangements:

Students who fail Part Three are permitted one further attempt at a resit in each module they have failed. Students who fail Part Three will no longer be eligible for an Honours Degree but, assuming the necessary threshold after the resit (normally an overall average of 35% or above) is achieved, students will obtain a Pass Degree. Where a re-sit is permitted, students will be assessed on the failed element(s) ONLY in August. These will be capped at a maximum mark of 40%. Any element(s) already passed will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Failed coursework must be re-submitted by 12 noon, on the third Friday of August.

Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

1) Required text books: Purchase of textbooks is not compulsory, but students should consider setting aside £25 to cover the purchase of useful books £25

2) Specialist equipment or materials: None

3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear: None

4) Printing and binding: None

5) Computers and devices with a particular specification: None

6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence: None

Last updated: 15 July 2021


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