LIT180 : Studying Theatre: A History of Dramatic Texts in Performance

Convenor(s): Dr Carmen Levick


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

General Information

This module introduces you to key dramatic texts from Ancient Greece to the present. Each week you will study a particular play, and the historical, ideological and social contexts that informed its composition, its first performances, and its theatrical afterlife. We will talk about the play in performance, and the processes that underlie its production - about acting, directing, design and economics – with the emphasis on theatre as a complex and practical discipline. In recent years the course texts have included work by playwrights such as Sophocles, John Vanbrugh, William Shakespeare, Alfred Jarry, Bertolt Brecht, Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill and Debbie Tucker Green. The aim is to develop your understanding of a range of seminal Western theatre texts and further your ability to analyse the connections between different styles and forms of theatre and the societies out of which they have emerged. This relationship is something you will return to throughout your degree as we examine how theatre and performance represent, critique and illuminate the society that produces them.


Introduction to Theatre is taught through a combination of lectures and small group seminars. The weekly course lecture take place on Mondays and will introduce you to significant aspects of the text, its cultural and historical context, and its performance history. You will also attend weekly seminars with a tutor, during which you will explore and analyse the play and period discussed in that week’s lectures. Seminar tutors ask students to work in ways that support learning through research and creative practice, so you might be asked to prepare a group presentation on a key theme/issue in the play, present a short excerpt of a chosen section of the text, obtain a selection of newspaper reviews of various productions, bring in music you feel would best accompany a particular scene, write a review of a production you’ve watched, and so on. Such tasks are intended to stimulate intelligent discussion about the play and its possible meanings and reception. They will also allow you to test ideas and share opinions with your tutor and peers, before undertaking formal assessments.


You will be assessed through two pieces of written work, each of 2,000 words or equivalent, one submitted approximately mid-way through the module and the other at the end. You will be offered a variety of questions to choose from, giving you the opportunity to select which play(s) you write about, and from what perspective(s). Some will require a conventional, analytical essay, but you may also be invited to design a stage set, reflect on an actor’s approach to a role, say how you would direct a particular scene for a specific theatre or audience, or write your own short play in response to one you have studied or by drawing on its approach and techniques. Inviting you to develop your own thoughts about the plays, informed by rigorous performance, historical and political analysis, is the driving force of this module, and the primary focus of the assessment.

Contact Details

0114 22228491

Information last changed: Thursday 12th of April 2018 :: 02:50:03 PM (BST)


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