English Literature for a modern world

English Literature for a modern world

English Literature for a modern world

Professor Tracey Hill discusses how studying English Literature can prove valuable in our modern, digital world.

Thinking of studying English Literature, but not quite sure how your degree will translate into the 'real' world? At Bath Spa, we firmly believe that the study of literature is also an active engagement with the world around us. Recently, Tracey Hill,  Professor of Early Modern Literature and Culture, has been able to take literary figures off the library shelves and introduce them into both the virtual and physical space. 

“I teach modules on sixteenth and seventeenth-century poetry and drama, Literary London, and historical fiction. Since 2004 I have been leading a third-year module on the culture of early modern London,” says Tracey, who received a British Academy research grant to produce her second book Pageantry and Power. She was subsequently awarded the David Bevington Award for the Best New Book in Early Drama Studies in 2010.

Thanks to Tracey's passion for her subject, she's been able to bring public engagement with literature from our historical past. She recently brought an intriguing seventeenth-century play by Middleton and Dekker, The Roaring Girl, into the digital space by recording a podcast with the Beyond Shakespeare project. 

The Roaring Girl is a 1611 play about a real-life woman named Mary Frith, also known as 'Moll Cutpurse', who was notorious for dressing up in men's clothing, drinking, and fighting. 

Professor Hill believes the lively and engaging subject matter of the play will strike a chord with Bath Spa students, providing historical context for contemporary debates on gender identity and fluidity.

Tracey has also recorded a podcast for the Thomas Nashe Project where she brings to life street pageantry and the soundscape of Renaissance London.

An image from the original 1611 edition of the play showing Moll in male costume, wearing breeches, with a sword and pipe.

In partnership with the Guildhall Library in the City of London, Tracey also leads a number of popular guided walks in the busy streets of London.

One of the walks focused on Richard Whittington, a well-known English merchant and politician, famously Lord Mayor of London three times, who financed a number of public projects, such as drainage systems in poor areas of medieval London, and a hospital ward for unmarried mothers. He's also the inspiration behind the English folk tale Dick Whittington and His Cat.

“In this walk I took participants to various locations in the City associated with Dick Whittington's life and times,” Tracey comments.

Sixteenth century map showing London much as Whittington would have known it (his parish church, St Michael Paternoster Royal, is highlighted).

Who says that English Literature is all about reading books in stuffy libraries?

If you've a love for English Literature, there are many ways we can help you translate your passion for your subject into the real world.

If you prefer a more hands-on approach to studying, you can combine your degree with Publishing, a subject that'll teach you range of digital skills that are sought after by employers. You can also opt to have a Professional Placement Year as part of your degree, enhancing your employability and long-term career prospects.

Find out more about our BA (Hons) English Literature, or drop us a line at with any questions.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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