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Unheard Voices


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Honours College Humanities Lab.
Students in the first year of their bachelor's programme who achieve good academic results and are very motivated, may apply for a place in Humanities Lab.


What we know about history is dependent on whose voices we prioritize in our history books and the literary canon. This kind of canonization is based on, amongst other things, gender assumptions and the appreciation of certain genres, publication forms, and activities over others. As a result, certain voices ring louder than others; indeed, some voices remain completely unheard. This course aims to draw attention to the polyphony of history by using early modern England as a case study.

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, many people continued to produce manuscripts, even after the introduction of the printing press. People, men and women alike, thus chose to publish their text in handwritten form, rather than print. Those people incapable of writing, for whatever reason, could use the services of scribes to produce a text. By focusing on manuscripts (rather than printed texts) and the way these were produced, the voices of the illiterate, women, people from the lower strata of society, as well as the scribes who transferred other people’s words to the page come to the fore.

This course is truly research-led: students will be taught by three researchers who will share their ongoing research on early modern authorship, and students will, in turn, conduct their own research projects. Each week will centre around a different type of text (so-called miscellanies, letters, legal records, and plays) and the voices these documents contain and those they omit. A visit to Special Collections at Leiden University’s Library will be part of the course. Students will use the knowledge gained during this course to reflect on their own study programme: are there possibilities to (further) decolonize the curriculum?

Course objectives

After completion of this course, students will:

  • Have gained knowledge about the formation of historical and literary canons

  • Have gained knowledge of early modern manuscript culture and authorship

  • Know were to look for those voices not currently included in the history books and literary canon

  • Be able to analyse texts from the early modern period

  • Be able to present findings, through oral presentations and written work

  • Be able to reflect on and formulate ideas about decolonalisation of the curriculum


The timetables are available through MyTimetable.

Mode of instruction

Seminars and excursion to Special Collections

Assessment method


  • In-class presentation (30%)

  • Research paper of c. 3000 words (50%)

  • Response paper of c. 1000 words (20%)


As shown above


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursions, etc.). If you are unable to attend, notify the lecturer (listed in the information bar on the right) in advance. Being absent may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


If the final mark (based on all individual components) is insufficient (lower than a 6), the final essay can be retaken. Contact the course lecturer for more information.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

  • Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”, in Anna Snaith (ed.), A Room of One’s Own and Three Guineas (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

  • William Shakespeare, The Tempest, edited by Stephen Orgel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)

  • Marina Warner, Indigo, or, Mapping the Waters (Vintage Publishing, 1993)
    The listed editions are the recommended versions of the texts we will be reading, but should students already have different editions to the ones suggested above, they are welcome to use those.
    A syllabus with full reading list will be made available on Brightspace.


Students participating in this module will be enrolled in MyStudymap by the Education Administration Office of Humanities Lab. Students can register for the Humanities Lab modules about two to three weeks before the start of the module through an online form provided by Umail. On this form students indicate the modules in order of their preference. The coordinators assign students to a module based on their preference and bachelor’s programme, in order to create a diverse group of students and equal amount of students per module Usually students get assigned to the module of their first or second choice.
General information about MyStudymap is available on the website.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.