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The University of Sheffield

Literature of the English Country House

The University of Sheffield via FutureLearn


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

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4.8 rating, based on 199 reviews

Start your review of Literature of the English Country House

  • 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
    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
    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

    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 course thank you very much. Ideal for all levels and very thought provoking, interesting and well constructed. I really enjoyed it and it has given me a new level of understanding of the part country houses played and evolved in literature that I hadn’t thought of before. Interesting and varied subjects each week and I would highly recommend it. You can go on to read the books but it’s not necessary as you will still gain a lot from the course. Hopefully it will give you an added dimension of interest when next visiting a Country House. Thanks again.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Having just stopped work at the age of 70, I decided that I needed to keep the brain ticking. Having read English and taught it for many years it was good to have the chance to share and be taught again. Sometimes I found the presentations a little distracting...
  • 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
    I really thoroughly enjoyed it!!! It was the first course that I've ever done and also the first time that I actually looked into the importance of Country Houses in English literature. Before this course, I was kind of just reading headlessly all the books that I feel interested in but now I think I have a much clearer idea of what I should be looking for when reading and also what I should be doing before I read!! Thank you so much.
  • Anonymous
    The course has introduced me not only to the country houses but how literature by some of our best known writers have used them as a background. The fact that Spectator magazine was included I found of interest and aim to look out for it in my local WHS. The course has obviously taken time to construct in order to present the subject matter in the best possible way. My thanks to all involved
  • 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.
  • Profile image for Norman Sherwood
    Norman Sherwood

    Norman Sherwood completed this course.

    I have taken several hundred on-line courses from a huge variety of institutions. I would rate this course among the very top of those courses. In terms of depth, linkage to further study, quality of the video presentations, and providing a motivation...
  • 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

    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
    A fascinating and entirely unexpected course content, which covers a wide range of topics under the country house banner. Highly recommended. This was presented by lecturers who are incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgeable and love their subject. I would envy any young graduate going to the University of Sheffield. What a treat!
  • 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.
  • Barb Anderson

    Barb Anderson completed this course.

    This course allowed me to look at the literature of the period through a different lens. I was exposed to new authors, re-familiarized myself with old favourites and developed a new appreciation for the Gothic Novel. I will never read a piece of literature...
  • Anonymous
    I took this course just for fun, and it really was. I am a retired teacher who still loves to learn, and this course was totally enjoyable. I have read most of the books that were discussed, but the course gave me new perspective on the times in which the authors lived and how they wrote.

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