For best experience please turn on javascript and use a modern browser!
You are using a browser that is no longer supported by Microsoft. Please upgrade your browser. The site may not present itself correctly if you continue browsing.
Bekijk de site in het Nederlands

Honoursmodule: The Three Ages in English Literature

Add to favourites

The Three Ages in English Literature: Youth, Adulthood, and Old Age from Shakespeare to the Present Day


dr. R.W.H. Glitz

Entry requirements 

  • Second and Third year bachelor students participating in an honours programme.
  • Students studying literature or cultural analysis cannot register for this course.

Recommended prior knowledge

A high level of written and spoken English. Some familiarity with literary texts.

Learning Objectives

At the end of the course the student can:

  • Close-read and analyze literary texts in some depth.
  • Interpret selected passages from a literary text with reference to a broader cultural theme.
  • Evaluate other readers’ interpretations of a given text or passage.
  • Engage critically with other readers’ interpretative claims about a given text.
  • Clearly express the results of the above activities both orally and in writing.
  • Recognize the importance of cultural-historical context in the practice of interpretation.
  • Discuss with some competence cultural conceptions of age and the ageing process.


‘The Three Ages in English Literature’ is designed for students with no academic background but a keen interest in Anglophone literature. If your English is good and you enjoy reading, thinking, and creatively engaging with literature of any genre, this will be the right course for you. In every class, we will train some of the basic close-reading and argumentation techniques used in the field of literary studies but also venture farther into some of the cultural debates that inform our chosen texts. We will do this with a particular topic in mind, namely the conception, representation, and occasionally also political implications of age and the ageing process in the various texts under investigation. What does ‘growing up’ mean in Shakespeare’s play Henry IV, for instance, and how does it relate to political authority? How did childhood come to be idealized in Wordsworth’s Romantic poetry and what were the socio-cultural consequences of its widespread elevation? What happened to middle age in Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby? And how does Elizabeth Strout’s novelistic short-story sequence Olive Kitteridge conceptualize the life course as a whole? In order to answer these questions we will regularly draw on academic work from a variety of age-related disciplines, although the main focus of the course still remains literary and directed towards our primary texts themselves.

Teaching methods

  • Lecture
  • Seminar
  • Selfstudy
  • Work independently on project
  • Guidance and feedback moment


There will be five 300-word mini-essays with a pass/fail grade, one graded in-class exam in session 6, and a graded final essay assignment (1500-2000 words).

Study material

  • The course engages with one play and two novels that need to be bought by students (see below), and various shorter texts and articles made available online.
  • William Shakespeare, Henry IV, part 1 (any scholarly edition, preferably Arden or Oxford)
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (preferably Scribner 2004 edition; others possible)
  • Elizabeth Strout, Olive Kitteridge (Simon & Schuster 2011)
  • The details of the course syllabus will be spelled out online.
  • The online learning software used will be Canvas.


One Shakespeare  play (Henry IV) and two novels need to be bought by students (at ca. 40-50 Euros in total), the rest of the material will be made available for free.

Min/max participants

max. 25


The schedule will be available on Datanose


Registration is possible for 2nd year (or higher) students participating in an Honours programme. The registration for the Honours courses will start on June 1, 10 am -  June 4, 11 pm, You can register through the online registration form that will appear on Honoursmodules IIS (registration is NOT through SIS)

Placement will be at random and students will be informered about their placement in the week of June 21. 

There is NO guarantee for placement if you register AFTER June 4, so make sure you apply on time! 

For questions about registration please email to:

SDGs in education

The IIS strives to reflect current societal issues and challenges in our elective courses, honours modules and degree programmes, and attempts to integrate the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in this course. For more information about these goals, please visit the SDGs website

Facts & Figures
Mode Honours programme
Credits 6 ECTS,
Language of instruction English
Conditions for admission
Starts in September