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The University of Southampton

ENGL2029 Modern Drama Since the Second World War

Module Overview

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.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• enable you to develop awareness, understanding and knowledge of performance and contextual issues in post-war drama and film • provide you with opportunities to draw upon theoretical, critical and reading skills in areas such as identity, gender, class and race • consider performance issues in selected drama and films of the period • develop your skills in writing analytical essays

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • some of the ways in which post-war drama and film has explored political and social issues
  • the kind of changes that took place during this period in relation to performance theories and practices
  • critical responses to the authors and directors studied
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • write critically, accurately and in some depth on a range of views
  • participate in informal discussion and debate reflecting a range of views
  • use your research to draw on a wide variety of secondary and supplementary sources
Cognitive Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • analyze, orally and in writing, key concepts and ideas
  • contextualize the work of the writers and directors studied and consider critical responses in relation to their work
  • employ an understanding of the theoretical debates on performance theories and practices
  • evaluate critically a range of textual material


The aim of this module is to give you an understanding of the dramatic forms and techniques, the performance issues and the social-historical contexts of selected examples of post-second-world-war drama. The module will also aim to ensure that you are given the opportunities to acquire the skills necessary to discuss, research and produce a sustained written analysis of the above issues. The module is intended to introduce you to a range of drama, for stage, TV and film, since the second world war, and to cover major trends in drama and performance during the period. An emphasis will be placed upon the acquisition of individual critical and analytical skills and the your ability to work effectively with your peers.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • background lectures • seminars • independent study • screenings of plays and films • workshop Learning activities include • close reading and careful analysis of selected texts and themes • engagement in seminar discussions as participator and listener • preparation for and completion of two coursework essays This module includes a Learning Support Hour. This is a flexible weekly contact hour, designed to support and respond to the particular cohort taking the module from year to year. This hour will include (but not be limited to) activities such as language, theory and research skills classes; group work supervisions; assignment preparation and essay writing guidance; assignment consultations; feedback and feed-forward sessions.

Wider reading or practice18
Completion of assessment task49
Preparation for scheduled sessions50
Practical classes and workshops1
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Glen Creeber and Dennis Potter (1998). Between Two Worlds: A Critical Reassessment. 

Ray Carney and Leonard Quart (2000). The Films of Mike Leigh. 

Wandor, M. (1987). Look Back in Gender: Sexuality and the Family in Post-War British Drama. 

Elaine Aston (2003). Feminist Views on the English Stage: Women Playwrights: 1990-2000. 

Peter Middleton (1992). The Inward Gaze: Masculinity and Subjectivity in Modern Culture. 

Shimon Levy (2002). Samuel Beckett’s Self-Referential Drama: The Sensitive Chaos. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 45%
Essay  (2000 words) 45%
Group presentation  (15 minutes) 10%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Costs associated with this module will not exceed £90

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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