This module examines the aesthetic, social and political ideas of leading dramatists and theatre practitioners in twentieth- and twenty-first century England, Europe, and Ireland, spanning the period of Harold Wilson and Vietnam War (1955-1975) to the present day, via the rise and reign of Thatcher (1979-1990) and the end of the Cold War (1991) up to the rise of global capitalism, climate change, consumerism and the age of genome. The post-WW II period is a disaster-ridden period riven with paradox and contradiction, haunted by the traumas of two World Wars, but also overshadowed by the brooding gloom of the cold war and nuclear conflicts. Equally significant, it is a period which witnesses post-9/11 cataclysms throughout the USA and Europe and their seismic repercussions in the Middle East and throughout the world.
In the field of drama and theatre, this period subsumes a whole panoply of subgenres, strands and trends, from social realism, critical realism, comedy and Rational Theatre to prominent deviations from realism into tragedy, Theatre of Menace, Theatre of Catastrophe, New Expressionism, and In-Yer-Face Theatre. Accordingly, we will investigate plays - and where possible, theatrical performances - to see how appeals to different aesthetic forms in modern drama are inextricably entangled with the varying conceptions of the human self, reality and resistance on the one hand, and with the changing attitudes to imperialism, class, race, and gender on the other.