ENG32380 Sexuality and the State in Irish Drama and Culture

Academic Year 2023/2024

Spanning the Irish Revival to the present day, this module explores the ways in which Irish dramatists have represented the correlations and tensions between state-sanctioned configurations of sexualities and sexual health, and Irish people’s lived experiences of sexuality and sexual health. Students will critically survey a diverse corpus of Irish drama that includes mainstream playwrights such as Marina Carr, J.M. Synge, and Frank McGuinness, as well as fringe dramatists such as Amy Conroy, and Neil Watkins. Students will critically explore the socio-political and cultural history of Irish sexuality and sexual health as it has played out on the nation’s stages and by extension as it has been understood and practices in Irish society, culture, and politics.. Students will investigate the ways in which female and counter-normative sexualities are frequently corralled into state-sanctioned versions of Irish sexual identity, while simultaneously interrogating how those who cannot or will not conform to such sexual norms are socially punished and at times even eliminated. Students will also investigate how Irish dramatists, in order to explore the realities of how Irish people navigate often-oppressive state configurations of sexuality, have formulated radical dramaturgical, playwriting, and performance strategies that run counter to traditional realist drama, while simultaneously interrogating the historical roots of these strategies.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, students will be able to:
• Demonstrate indepth knowledge of the ways in which modern and contemporary Irish dramatists and theatre makers have:
– 1] represented and challenged state and other official configurations of sexuality;
– 2] represented and challenged the ways in which governments and their agents have mobilized sexuality as a tool for social control.
• Critically evaluate the ways in which Irish dramatists and theatre makers who explore sexuality have utilized radical strategies in terms of dramatic form, structure, playwriting, spectatorship, and dramaturgy.
• Theoretically elaborate the effects of colonialism, nationalism, and contemporary consumerism and socio-economic policies and practices, on Irish sexualities.
• Articulate in scholarly terms a broad history of sexualities, sexual politics, and sexual health in 20th and 21st century Ireland.
• Be capable of expressing critical judgement clearly and effectively while also being able to speak and write with clarity, precision, depth, and style; thereby developing and demonstrating critical thinking, theoretical knowledge, and a scholarly vocabulary appropriate to writing about drama and related socio-political discourses that explore issues of gender, sexuality, and sexual health.
• Demonstrate sophisticated skills in detailed textual analysis and close reading while also acquiring a command of appropriate literary terminology and be able to apply this to the analysis of the texts concerned.
• Become an effective researcher in this field of study, able to locate appropriate sources of information and to evaluate and use this knowledge in their oral and written work; be able to effectively manage research time and work both independently and collaboratively.

Indicative Module Content:

- Understanding Heteronormativity
- Queering the Colony: Tracing Imperial Heteronormativity
- Virgin Mother Ireland: Women, Nation, and the Family Cell
- Gay Men on the Irish Stage: From Sinister Antagonist to Proud Protagonist
- Lesbian Identities and the Patriarchal Gaze: Hidden Histories
- HIV and AIDS and their Metaphors: Sexual Health and the Cultural Politics of Stigma
- Essay Writing Workshop.
- Understanding Homonormativity: Good Gays versus Bad Queers

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Project Supervision


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
Lecturer-facilitated seminar based discussion and debate
In-class presentations
In-class peer review
Enquiry based learning
Essay writing workshop
Close readings of primary texts
Readings/viewings of secondary materials
Summative and formative feedback
Research-led, autonomous learning
Independent development of final essay topic
one-on-one consultation sessions with lecturer
email consultations with lecturer
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations
Learning Recommendations:

ENG20400: Critical Theory

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade
Essay: Final end of semester essay.
Students will develop their own essay topic via one-on-one consultation session with the module lecturer which is continued via series of email consultations
Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No


Assignment: Critifcal reflection writing assignment elaborating one theoretical concept taught on the module from Weeks 1-5 Week 7 n/a 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, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Peer review activities
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

There will be continuous formative feedback provided during seminars. Formative feedback is also available via email to any student who requests it. Students are provided with one-on-one summative/post-assessment feedback sessions for both their mid-semester assignment and their final essay.

Timetabling information is displayed only for guidance purposes, relates to the current Academic Year only and is subject to change.
Lecture Offering 1 Week(s) - Autumn: All Weeks Tues 15:00 - 16:50