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European Drama and Theatre: Gods, Ideas and Adaptations


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 5
  • Convenor: Professor Sue Wiseman
  • Assessment: a 1000-word commentary (10%), 1500-word essay (45%) and 2000-word essay (45%)

Module description

What are, and what have been, the relationships between British and European plays? From the Greeks to contemporary theatre, plays from Europe have been immensely influential on British (and American) traditions of theatre.

In this module we take some of the most renowned texts from this tradition and mix them with British texts to illuminate some of the many relationships still alive in performance and as part of social, political and intellectual culture. We will cover a wide historical sweep, giving you a sense of both the historical importance of the interchange between British and European plays and of their place as a vibrant strand in an increasingly diverse performance culture.

Indicative syllabus

What is drama for? Plays and contexts

  • The Oresteia - theatre and justice
  • Hippolytus - theatre and the family
  • Lysistrata - war, gender, comedy
  • Le Jeu Adam trans.

Stages in theatre: courts and crowds

  • Southerne, Oroonoko
  • Molière, The School for Wives
  • Racine, Phaedre
  • Wycherley, The Country-Wife

Theatre reframed: the world in the house?

  • Artaud, The Theatre and Its Double/Jet of Blood
  • Beckett, Waiting for Godot
  • Chekhov, The Cherry Orchard
  • Theatre: avant garde anger

Rereading theatre

  • Marina Carr, Phaedre Backwards
  • Branden Jacob Jenkins, An Octoroon

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the development of strands of European drama and theatre
  • consider the role of literature in the creation of categories of thought in justice, gender, race
  • identify and explore the reception and reworking of forms of drama and theatre
  • explore debates about European drama and theatre as they relate to specific periods and evolve through time
  • write about specific texts using close analysis and historical context.