LIT3037 : Performance Essay

Convener(s): Dr Frances Babbage


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

The final-year Performance Essay module requires you to work independently to plan, prepare and present a short performance in an area of theatre that you find especially interesting and stimulating. The Performance Essay is analogous to the Literature Dissertation in that it marks out a ‘space’ – here defined temporally and spatially, rather than by word limit – and invites you to use this to explore what fascinates you most in your subject area in a way that is distinctive, well-informed and original (in so far as this last is possible). The Performance Essay will normally be 20 minutes in length; we are willing to discuss variations on this structure to suit the demands of particular projects, but you should view this as the norm and take it as your starting-point. The Performance Essay is to be creative, rather than simply interpretive: thus although you may choose to draw upon pre-existent dramatic texts, these will typically be ‘quoted from’ and used alongside devised or other original material rather than taken as the entire script for production.

In following the Performance Essay module you will choose to follow one of two routes: (i) the Individual Practice route; or (ii) the Group Practice route. Your choice here will determine the way that you work and the way that you are assessed for this module. If you elect to take the module as Individual Practice, you will be solely responsible for the creation and leadership of your Performance Essay and you will ultimately receive an individual mark for this.
Those students who opt to take the module as Group Practice will normally then divide up to form a number of smaller groups (the sizes of which may vary). Each of these smaller groups will work as a discrete ensemble to create, rehearse and present a Performance Essay.


This module is largely conducted through your own independent practice. This means that ‘teaching’, understood in conventional terms, is minimal. Each Performance Essay will have a supervisor, who will be your main point of contact throughout the semester. Your supervisor will meet with you at the start of the semester to discuss your ideas and help you to clarify the initial proposal and where appropriate to advise on process. S/he will also have regular meetings with you subsequently to discuss progress and debate with you about your ideas. However, your supervisor will not directly observe any rehearsals or practical ‘drafts’ of the work in progress; in this sense, the eventual presentation of the Performance Essay is more akin to sitting an examination paper than preparing a coursework essay. Your supervisor will still comment critically and supportively on your work in progress, but to an extent it is down to you to articulate this: thus you can meet to debate ideas and ask for advice over difficulties, and you can request feedback on scripts, designs and other documentation you provide.

Following the presentation of the Performance Essays, students are required to attend a 15-20 minute viva with the assessing tutors. There will be one viva per performance, i.e. those who took the module as Group Practice will have group vivas. The purpose of the viva is to help tutors in determining the final marks for the Performance Essay practice element.


There are two elements of assessment for the Performance Essay module:

(i) Performance Essay: 70%.  The mark for this element will be on the performance itself, not the process. The viva (see above) will help tutors to arrive at the grade for this.  Those students who opt for Group Practice will receive a group mark for this element.

(ii) Reflective Commentary (1,500 words): 30%.

Each student will submit a Reflective Commentary, which will receive an individual mark. This means that students who take the module by Group Practice will receive a group mark for their Performance Essay, but the remaining 30% of the assessment will come from an individual mark.

More details about the form of the Reflective Commentary and the assessment criteria will be supplied.

Contact Details

Dr Frances Babbage, Tel: 0114 222 8479

Information last changed: Monday 10th of August 2015 :: 12:40:23 PM (BST)

Please note: This module may or may not run in any individual session. Please check with the course convener.


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK