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This subject introduces students to a variety of literary and performance texts, focusing on distinct but interconnected ways of understanding the two forms. It will study different historical periods and different genres to investigate how textuality and performativity develop and reflect different ways of thinking about identity. Working at the intersections of text, performance and culture, we will examine changing models of self representation from the early modern period to the late 19th century. Shakespearean tragedy develops highly influential modern forms of subjectivity, which see the individual emerge from social distinctions of status and gender and through new forms of representation. The Romantic lyric is designed to produce a revolutionary individuality from the poetically renewed resources of a common language. The mid-19th century realist novel perfects both a new form of writing and a new mode of subjectivity out of the materials of its dramatic and poetic predecessors. European theatre at the end of the 19th century reinvigorates the English tradition and rewrites the conventions of realism. Along with historical and generic concepts, we will also examine the constitutive role of ideas of gender and power in both text and performance. Students who successfully complete this subject will have a detailed understanding of the themes and forms of a range of key texts, and a methodological introduction to further work in English and Theatre Studies.
Intended learning outcomes
On successful completion of this subject, students should be able to:
- demonstrate a detailed knowledge of the material conditions and performance traditions of Renaissance, Romantic and realist literary texts;
- work independently to develop and effectively communicate understandings of complex literary material and criticism;
- apply critical and analytical skills unique to English and Theatre Studies to the representation of subjectivity and the self within complex and changing historical contexts; and
- articulate the relationship between diverse forms of knowledge and the social, historical and cultural contexts that produced them, including a detailed understanding of selected plays by Shakespeare and his contemporaries; of selected poems by the Romantics, and of selected novels and plays of the 19th century.
At the completion of this subject, students should gain the following generic skills (in the areas of):
- research: through competent use of library, and other (including online) information sources; through the successful definition of areas of inquiry and methods of research;
- critical thinking and analysis: through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; through the questioning of accepted wisdom and the ability to shape and strengthen persuasive judgments and arguments; through attention to detail in reading material; and through openness to new ideas and the development of critical self-awareness;
- theoretical thinking: through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; through a productive engagement with relevant methodologies and paradigms in literary studies and the broader humanities;
- creative thinking: through essay writing and tutorial discussion; through the innovative conceptualising of problems and an appreciation of the role of creativity in critical analysis;
- social, ethical and cultural understanding: through use of recommended reading, essay writing and tutorial discussion; through the social contextualisation of arguments and judgments; through adaptations of knowledge to new situations and openness to new ideas; through the development of critical self-awareness in relation to an understanding of other cultures and practices; and
- intelligent and effective communication of knowledge and ideas: through essay preparation, planning and writing as well as tutorial discussion; through effective dissemination of ideas from recommended reading and other relevant information sources; through clear definition of areas of inquiry and methods of research; through confidence to express ideas in public forums.
Last updated: 9 September 2021