Week 8, Term 1. Your formative essay should be 2500 words (plus or minus 10%), word-processed, and two copies must be handed to the English Office, with a completed cover sheet. An electronic copy must also be submitted by this time. Any extension must be agreed by Dr Daniel Katz, the Director of Undergraduate Studies, IN ADVANCE.
1. Examine the original reviews of Look Back in Anger (reprinted in John Russell Taylor’s Casebook on the play). What light do they shed on the critics, the period, or John Osborne.
2. ‘For Jimmy Porter… questions of manhood and virility are at stake… as much if not more than the state of the world.’ (Michelene Wandor, Look Back in Gender) Discuss with detailed reference to the play.
3. Are Jimmy and Beatie angry about the same things?
4. Osborne: ‘I tried to write in a language in which it was only possible to tell the truth.’
Pinter: ‘Most of the time we’re inexpressive, giving little away, unreliable, elusive, obstructive, unwilling. But it’s out of these attributes that a language arises.’
Compare the role of language in the work of any two playwrights studied in this course.
5. ‘If you press me for a definition, I’d say that what goes on in my plays is realistic, but what I’m doing is not realism’ (Pinter). Discuss “realism” in the work of any two or more playwrights writing since 1939.
6. Research the history of the Royal Court Theatre or Theatre Workshop in the 1950s and 1960s. You may wish to relate them to the work of, respectively, Osborne, Wesker or Delaney.
7. Consider the roots of violence in John Arden’s drama.
8. Discuss the role of song, dance and/or music in two or more plays on the course this term.
9. ‘Gesture replaces intrigue in Beckett’s theatre.’ How far is this true and what might be the implications of such an artistic manoeuvre?
10. Analyse in detail a production of a modern play that you have seen recently. How adequately did it meet the demands of the script – which you need to have read - and did it constitute an ‘interpretation’ of it?
Term 2 Week 2Assessed essay: Essays 2-4 will give you your module grade. An e-copy must also be submitted by this time via the English department website. Lateness will be penalized with lost marks. The essay must be double-spaced and must include references and a bibliography.
1. Interdependence in the void: analyse the relationship between speakers and listeners in two or more Beckett plays.
2. ‘Nothing is as funny as unhappiness, I grant you that.’ (Beckett, Endgame) Explore the relationship between pain, laughter and survival in Beckett.
3. Consider the roots of violence in the drama of Pinter, Bond or Barnes.
4. Explore the relationship between humour and social or moral criticism in two of the following: Early Morning, Loot, The Ruling Class.
5. ‘I was, I know I was.’ Analyse the workings of memory in two plays by Pinter and/or Beckett.
6. ‘Saved is almost irresponsibly optimistic.’ (Bond) Can Bond’s statement be justified? Analyse the play’s dramatic processes in detail.
7. ‘Use words t’me.’ (Saved) Analyse the ways language sharpens or prevents communication in the plays of Bond, Pinter, or Barnes.
8. ‘The killing of a child in a pram when it doesn’t cry…already has a kind of abstract, symbolic quality about it.’ (William Gaskill, first director of Saved)
Explore the function of visual imagery in the work of Barnes, Beckett, and/or Bond
9. Analyse in detail a production – on stage or screen - of a modern play that you have seen recently. How adequately did it meet the demands of the script and did it constitute an ‘interpretation’ of it?
10. Devise a title of your own. To do so, please talk to your seminar tutor before the end of week 10.
Two hard copies of the essay, with a completed cover sheet (available from outside English reception) must be submitted, by 12pm on Tuesday of Week 2, Term 2 (18th Jan) to the English department reception. An e-copy of the essay must also be submitted by this time via the English department website. Lateness will be penalized with lost marks. The essay must be double-spaced and must include references and a bibliography.
Any extension must be agreed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies in English, IN ADVANCE
Term 2 Week 10
- 'Here's to us,' (Marlene in Top Girls). Explore the conflicts between gender, success and social responsibility in Caryl Churchill's work.
2. JOYCE: An artist is the magician put among men to gratify - capriciously - their urge for immortality....
CARR: To be an artist at all is like living in Switzerland during a world war.
With detailed reference to Stoppard's work, discuss its treatment of the role of the artist.
3. Theatre ‘is about the body and its pleasures and its pains.’ (Steven Berkoff) What does Berkoff (or any other contemporary playwright or director) do to the body, and why?
4. Discuss the representation of one of the following in at least two plays by Martin MacDonagh: family; masculinity; women; Ireland.
5. In what ways is language a tool in Brian Friel’s drama, in what ways a trap?
6. Sarah Kane: ‘To create something beautiful about despair, or out of a feeling of despair, is for me one of the most hopeful, life-affirming things a person can do.’ Analyse, in detail, the form - visual and verbal - of any play by Kane.
7. Analyse the ways the literature of the past has been adapted by Stoppard (Travesties), Berkoff (Metamorphosis), or any other modern British playwright.
8. ‘Starting in 1994 a remarkable number of striking young playwrights emerged in England…Their characters drifted around…violence was a frequent threat. and escape from feelings of entrapment mostly an illusion. But unlike their predecessors, these dramatists had no obvious ideology, no political credo, no social agenda.’ (Benedict Nightingale, The Future of the Theatre, 1998). Discuss with relation to one or more of the following: MacDonagh, Kane, Ravenhill.
9. In the 1990s, Osborne’s Déjà Vu showed what happened to Jimmy Porter. Write an outline - and a specimen scene - for a sequel to any play studied in this module.
10. Analyse the relationship between power and language within two of the following: Top Girls, The Lieutenant of Inishmore; The Beauty Queen of Leenane; Shopping and F***ing; Blasted.
11. Consider the importance of children, motherhood or old age in the work of any playwright studied this term.
12. Discuss the use and purpose of historical figures in at least two of the following: Stoppard's Travesties; Churchill's Top Girls and Johnson's Hysteria.
13.Discuss in detail Terry Johnson's technique in Hysteria of switching from painful trauma to hectic farce in a split second. Does it work?
14. Analyse in detail a production of a modern play that you have seen recently. How adequately did it meet the demands of the script, and did it constitute an ‘interpretation’ of it?
Term 3 Week 4
You have four options:
1. If you haven't already done so, this is the time to write the 'production essay':
Analyse in detail a production of a modern play that you have seen recently. How adequately did it meet the demands of the script – which you need to have read - and did it constitute an ‘interpretation’ of it?
2. Select any title from the previous essay lists.
3. Devise a title related to the play you are introducing in term 3, in consultation with your tutor.
4. Devise a title on a topic of your choice, in consultation with your tutor.