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Term 2 Essay Questions

An essay on one of the following topics should be handed in to the Department office in week 11. See English Dept. Handbook for details

Your essay should be 3,000 words long, excluding the bibliography.

1. What is an audience? Explore this question with reference to two or more plays you have studied this term.

2. "Tragedy is then not a single and permanent kind of fact ... Rather, the varieties of tragic experience are to be interpreted by reference to the changing conventions and institutions" (Raymond Williams). Explore this understanding of tragedy in two or more plays you have studied.

3. "Without our past the future cannot be reflected: the past is our mirror" (Derek Jarman). Consider the significance given to the past - or the drama of the past - in the work of any playwright studied this term.

4. In what ways is dramatic meaning dependent on its physical setting? Compare the use of visual resources and theatre space in at least two plays written since 1880.

5. “I am waiting for environment to determine the characters and the characters to act according to the logic of facts combined with logic of their own disposition” (Emile Zola, ‘Naturalism on the Stage’). Consider the extent to which two or more plays written after 1880 fulfilled Zola’s expectations for ‘Naturalism on the Stage’.

6. “…the spoken word, the text of a play is not valuable in and of itself, but is made so by the inner content of the subtext and what is contained in it” (Stanislavski, Building a Character). Discuss the importance of subtext in two or more plays.

7. During the 1880s, Strindberg wrote that literature “ought to emancipate itself from art entirely and become a science”. Examine the extent to which two or more writers studied on this module adopted a “scientific” approach to their drama.

8. “I… must disclaim the honour of having consciously worked for the women’s rights movement. I am not even quite clear as to just what this women’s rights movement really is. To me it has seemed a problem of humanity in general.” (Ibsen, in a speech to the Women’s Rights League of Norway, 26 May 1898) Discuss the ways in which two or more European plays have addressed the problem of women’s rights.

9. "Everything can happen, everything is possible and probable. Time and space do not exist" (Strindberg, Preface to A Dream Play). Discuss the ways modern playwrights have used non-realistic forms to explore psychological, moral or social states.

10. Explore the functions of role-play and/or metatheatre in twentieth-century drama.

11. "Tiresias should be the patron saint of theatre - he was both a man and a woman" (Genet). Analyse the construction of male, female or androgynous roles in two or more plays written since 1880.

12. How has European theatre responded to the arrival of film?

13. Compare in detail two productions - on stage, film or video - of works by any one dramatist studied this term. How have acting and design contributed to interpretation?

14. "Unfortunately I have often noticed that when misfortune strikes, it starts to make me laugh" (Wedekind). Explore and explain the interplay between tragedy and comedy in at least two modern dramas.

15. “For art to be ‘un-political’ means only to ally itself with the ‘ruling’ group” (Brecht, ‘A Short Organum for the Theatre’). Discuss, with reference to two or more European dramas.

16. Consider the ways Brecht and Weill adapted John Gay's work for the twentieth-century stage OR the ways George Pabst adapted Moliere, Wedekind or Brecht and Weill for the cinema.

17. Consider the moral and/or political significance of scenography in two plays you have studied this term.

18. Analyse the role of music and/or poetry in two or more European plays written since 1880.

19. In consultation with your tutor, you may devise a creative project (accompanied by a portfolio of at least 1,000 words) on a topic related to one of the texts or authors studied in this module. Topics must be agreed with your tutor in writing by Monday of Week 6. N.B.: students may submit only one creative project for European Theatre. Further guidance can be found here.

20. You may also choose to submit your own topic, in consultation with your seminar tutor. If you do this you must submit your title to the module convenor by 4.00 p.m. on Monday of week 7.