The Bible in English Literature


During this course you will explore a range of writers from the sixteenth century to the present day in terms of their relationship to the Bible.

We will proceed each week author by author, but as we do so the full extent of the Bible shall reveal itself from Genesis through to Revelation. Through close textual analyses of individual literary texts, presented in their specific biographical, historical and religious contexts, you will learn about different techniques of literary imitation and allusion through the ages and discern the prevalent influence of the most important single source of English literature.

The question at the heart of this course is what we can learn today from the changing ways in which writers have deciphered, or abided by, this ‘Great Code of Art’, as William Blake described the Holy Scriptures in one of his annotations to his drawing of the Laocoön.

Programme details

Course starts: 19 Sept 2023

Week 0: Course Orientation

Week 1: Introduction

Week 2: The Sidney Psalter

Week 3: Shakespeare: The Tempest, Genesis, and Revelation

Week 4: John Donne’s use of scripture in his Holy Sonnets and Sermons

Week 5: George Herbert’s The Temple and presentations

Week 6: Henry Vaughan’s Silex Scintillans and presentations

Week 7: John Milton’s Paradise Lost

Week 8: ‘The Great Code of Art’: Christopher Smart and William Blake

Week 9: Victorian and Modernist employments of the Bible: G. M. Hopkins, T. S. Eliot, W. B. Yeats, and James Joyce

Week 10: Contemporary Literature and the Bible


Students who register for CATS points will receive a Record of CATS points on successful completion of their course assessment.

To earn credit (CATS points) you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Coursework is an integral part of all weekly classes and everyone enrolled will be expected to do coursework in order to benefit fully from the course. Only those who have registered for credit will be awarded CATS points for completing work at the required standard.

Students who do not register for CATS points during the enrolment process can either register for CATS points prior to the start of their course or retrospectively from the January 1st after the current full academic year has been completed. If you are enrolled on the Certificate of Higher Education you need to indicate this on the enrolment form but there is no additional registration fee.


Description Costs
Course Fee £257.00
Take this course for CATS points £10.00


If you are in receipt of a UK state benefit, you are a full-time student in the UK or a student on a low income, you may be eligible for a reduction of 50% of tuition fees. Please see the below link for full details:

Concessionary fees for short courses


Dr Edward Clarke

Edward Clarke's latest collection of poems is called Cherubims (Kelsay Books, 2022). A Book of Psalms was published by Paraclete Press in 2020. He is also the author of two works of criticism: The Vagabond Spirit of Poetry (Iff Books, 2014) and The Later Affluence of W.B. Yeats and Wallace Stevens (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). He is poetry editor of the magazine Cassandra Voices and teaches English literature and art history at numerous colleges in Oxford.

Course aims

To explore a range of literary texts in English in terms of their different relationships to the Bible.

Course Objectives:

  • To allow students to gain knowledge of a range of English writers and individual books and passages from the Bible.
  • To help students understand through close textual analyses different techniques of literary imitation and allusion.
  • To enhance appreciation of the Bible as a significant source for English literature.

Teaching methods

This course will consist of a weekly, one-hour pre-recorded lecture to be viewed by students in preparation for the once weekly tutor-led live session at the time advertised. During the live sessions, teaching and learning will take place mainly in group discussions focused on aspects of the lectures and texts provided.

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will be expected to:

  • have detailed knowledge of a range of English writers and significant portions of the Old and New Testaments;
  • be able to produce well-contextualized and effectively close critical analyses of literary texts in terms of biblical imitation, allusion and influence;
  • have confident apprehension of the Bible as ‘the Great Code of Art’.

Assessment methods

Formative: oral presentations on poems by Herbert and Vaughan

Summative: essay (1,500 words)

Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form - Declaration of Authorship form


We will close for enrolments 7 days prior to the start date to allow us to complete the course set up. We will email you at that time (7 days before the course begins) with further information and joining instructions. As always, students will want to check spam and junk folders during this period to ensure that these emails are received.

To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee per course. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.

Please use the 'Book' or 'Apply' button on this page. Alternatively, please complete an enrolment form (Word) or enrolment form (Pdf).

Level and demands

No background knowledge is required: students will be fully introduced to all relevant texts.

Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.

Credit Accumulation and Transfer Scheme (CATS)