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TH319 - Interpreting the Theatrical Past: Approaches to Theatre Historiography

Module Convenor: Professor Jim Davis  

There will be weekly two-hour seminars in the Autumn and Spring terms.


Learning Outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • engage in research-based investigation of appropriate primary and secondary material
  • communicate what they have learned both orally and in writing
  • engage critically with the ways in which theatre historians use and present evidence
  • demonstrate an understanding of the ways in which social and cultural contexts influence the way theatre history is written.

Students will achieve these outcomes through

  • close reading of primary and secondary texts
  • seminar discussion and presentations, essays and written examinations
  • tutor-guided research for seminar presentation
  • practical application of historiographical principles to tasks set in class and for assessment


In recent years there has been a growing interest in the ways in which we study theatre history. Why do we privilege some periods over others? Why are some aspects of theatre history neglected by scholars? What are the assumptions behind our interpretation of documentary evidence? What choices do we make about the theoretical models we use? How did theatre history emerge as an academic discipline? What sorts of narrative inform our study of theatre history? What factors determine the ways in which we write about theatre history? This module aims to investigate the ways in which the historical study of acting, audiences, theatres and performance are heavily influenced by the assumptions, prejudices and ideological beliefs of those who have written about it. A strong emphasis will be placed on the close reading of set texts and on project work applying historiographical methods and methodologies.


Written Portfolio 1 10%
Written Portfolio 2 10%
Project-based Assessment 30% - ESUBMISSION
Assessed Seminar Presentation 50%