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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 184 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...
  • 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.

    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

    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...
  • 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...

    THANIA completed this course.

    Interesting,one can learn many new things about Literature and the country house,fantastic mentoring. The country house travel through centuries gives you the opportunity to see how it evolved,flourished and declined in time and how it is still present...
  • 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...
  • Dave Rawlings completed this course, spending 6 hours a week on it and found the course difficulty to be easy.

    This course is primarily a literature course that introduces and discusses various ways of improving an understanding of literature one reads. It uses the country house as a theme for applying those approaches, although the link is somewhat tenuous on...
  • 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.

    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

    Anonymous completed this course.

    Many thanks to the University of Sheffield’s School of English for a most enjoyable e-course. I learned a lot. I very much liked the enthusiasm of the various presenters which is very engaging. I also appreciated interacting with my fellow learners. I will never look at a country house anymore as just a pile of bricks and stones (never did that anyway). Now I know it stands for much more than just the home of an aristocratic family and their servants and of 'nouveau riche' Americans (I mean that ironically) and a ghost or two. Plus of course of tragic heroines. This course is a much a history of English literature as it is of the English country house. Many thanks again.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    A scholarly and interesting review of the Country House and Literature across 400 years-- I really enjoyed the excellent contributions made by different members of the English Faculty at Sheffield- and their obvious interest, levels of knowledge and expertise in specific areas and themes.
    The videos on location added to the visual connections between the authors and the associated houses and these stirred my memory and imagination on many occasions.
    A very extensive course with much to complete in 6 weeks but it sustained my interest and next time I visit Chatsworth, near where I grew up, I'll never just see the deer or the fountains in the same vein again.
    Thank you to all

  • 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 !
  • 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.

    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...
  • Glen Wasson

    Glen Wasson completed this course.

    I am a retired engineer and never respected the liberal arts until recently. I have taken several courses in literature and collected over a hundred books in my library. I live in Yuma, Arizona USA.
  • Anonymous

    Anonymous completed this course.

    I can’t thank and praise team ‘Sheffield’ highly enough! I have always enjoyed reading but have felt a gap in what I refer to as my ‘classic literary novels.’ To be exposed to 450 years of great literature, set within the context of the English country...
  • 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...

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