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Formative Essay

British Theatre Since 1939 2023-24 – Formative Essay

Please write a 1,500-word response to one of these two questions:

  1. “One thing was clear by the mid-Fifties: the generational, class and cultural divisions that had been bubbling away for some time in British society were at last beginning to find their expression on the public stage” (Michael Billington, State of the Nation). Discuss how any two playwrights studied this term represent generational, class, or cultural divisions in post-war Britain.
  2. “Approaching drama from the point of view of the function of gender can expand horizons of meaning, aesthetic pleasure, and the interpretive possibilities of plays” (Michelene Wandor, Look Back in Gender). Examine the ways in which two playwrights studied this term address gender.

Please hand in a printed copy of your essay to Dr Ronan Hatfull at the end of the Week 9 seminar on Monday 27th November.



  1. You can write about the same topic in your first assessed essay as in your formative (non-assessed) essay. The purpose of the formative essay is partly to give you the opportunity to try out your ideas and develop your writing skills without the pressure of them being assessed. Therefore, you're welcome to continue to develop the essay, using the same question, when it comes to the assessed essays next term. It's worth noting that the length of the assessed essay is 1,000 words longer than the formative one, so you'll obviously have to expand and develop your ideas. I would strongly discourage you from just regurgitating the same ideas. Also, be ambitious if you think that you've said everything you can say about the topic in your formative essay and pick a new title for the assessed essay.
  2. Please submit a printed, hardcopy of your essay to me in person at the start of next week's seminar.
  3. Please use double-lined spacing in your essay, as this will make it easier for me to annotate your work and provide better feedback.
  4. Please include a bibliography at the end of your essay, where you include any secondary reading you've consulted and any plays or productions to which you've made reference.
  5. In terms of structure, it's up to you in terms of how you structure your essay, but a recommended structure for an essay as short as 1,500 words might be as follows:
  1. Introduction to the essay topic
  2. Paragraph on essay topic in relation to Play 1
  3. Paragraph on essay topic in relation to Play 2
  4. Paragraph on how this topic connects both plays
  5. Conclusion in which you summarise your argument/thesis
  • I mentioned briefly that it's worth keeping in mind the interests of your tutors when writing essays for them. We don't want to turn you all into mini-mes! However, it's inevitable that if you write about topics that are likely to pique our interest, your essay may be more likely score highly, provided that it is well-written. With this in mind, you all know that I'm a performance and adaptation-driven scholar, so I'd be open to you using examples of live productions and adaptations of your chosen plays to support your arguments and discussions. BT39 is a module focused on studying these plays as texts but as this is the core English and Theatre module, I think it's important that you make connections between texts and performance.