ENG20250 Modern Drama: From Naturalism to Postmodernism

Academic Year 2022/2023

This course will examine some of the most important plays of the twentieth century from Europe and the United States. The module interrogates, through the lens of these ground-breaking dramas, the radical shifts in socio-political and class structures and hitherto unprecedented progress in human rights which shaped the twentieth century as it became the most progressive and yet war-torn era in human history. Through close readings of the texts coupled with discussions of the socio-political environments that inspired these plays -- such as the civil rights movement, the fall of Imperialism, contemporary feminism, workers rights, the LGBTQ movement, the rise of fascism, genocide and war crimes, the AIDS epidemic, and new understandings of gender and sexuality -- students will discover the history of a century of massive human progress that was yet also a century of perpetual, genocidal wars. Plays will be studied for their individual literary and dramatic qualities, and in particular, attention will be paid to the material, historical and dramaturgic aspects of their staging, and to relevant social, political and theoretical contexts. Issues of power and gender will be a recurring concern; many of the plays focus on female characters, though it is only later in the century that women come to the foreground as playwrights Each week we will read and discuss one individual play and the social, political, and cultural movements that inspired it.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this module the students will:
- Have a detailed knowledge of eleven landmark plays
- Understand how and why these plays reflect the history of the twentieth century
- Be able to critically elaborate the social movements and concerns that these plays both came from and spoke to
- Critically understand the evolution of theatrical genre, structure, and form over the course of the twentieth century
- Have critical understandings of key genres of drama, for example: tragedy; epic theatre; post-modern, new brutalism
- Have participated in workshop discussion and presentations
- Be able to think critically about and theoretically analyze drama and theatre
- Have developed critical and analytical writing skills specific to drama, theatre, and performance

Indicative Module Content:

11 landmark plays from the 1890s to the 1990s.
Critical readings and discussions about these plays and their playwrights as well as discussions and readings about:
Theatrical form, structure, and genre.
Modern and contemporary theatre history.
Theatre as a force for social, political, and cultural change.
Theatrical representation of the twentieth century as an century of progress
Theatrical representation of the twentieth century as an century of war
Key social movements and concernts-- civil rights, anti-imperialism, feminism, LGBTQ rights, HIV/AIDS, war and genocide - that inspired these plays

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Weekly lecture
Weekly SGT workshop/tutorial
In-class group work
In-class peer review
Academic writing skills
Critical and analytical approaches pertinent to drama, theatre, and performance
Critical vocabulary specific to writing and discussing drama, theatre, and performance
Summative and formative feedback 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
DRAM30150 - Twentieth-Century Drama, ENG20420 - Naturalism to Postmodernity, ENG20610 - 20th c Drama (EVENING), ENG31570 - Twentieth Century Drama

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Continuous Assessment: Write a Scene, in-class writing exercise Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Essay: Mid-Semester Scene Analysis (1500 words) Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Examination: 2-hour examination 2 hour End of Trimester Exam No Graded No


Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.

Name Role
Professor John Brannigan Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Pedzisai Maedza Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Dr Cormac O'Brien Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Professor Emilie Pine Lecturer / Co-Lecturer
Ms Rachel Fehily Tutor
Ms Phoebe O'Leary Tutor
Salome Paul Tutor