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Ibsen and Strindberg: Contrasting Visions

Course Code: TH2020:
Tutor: David Thomas
Class Time: Wednesday, 11.30-13.30

  1. 1 x essay of 3000 words 20%
  2. 1 x examination question 30%

This seminar course will explore the radically opposed visions of two playwrights whose work has shaped some of the major developments of twentieth-century playwriting.


The module will explore:

  • how the radically opposed visions of Ibsen and Strindberg were expressed in dramatic form
  • how these contrasting visions demand very different styles of theatre
  • how Ibsen uses naturalist and then symbolist techniques to analyse social and personal issues in contemporaneous Norwegian society
  • how Ibsen shows human beings creating meaning or absurdity in the way they respond to each other
  • how Strindberg uses techniques that foreshadow expressionism to articulate his vision of life’s ultimate absurdity
  • how Strindberg uses the act of playwriting as a means of transcending that absurdity.
Learning outcomes

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

  • engage in analytic investigation of appropriate primary and secondary source material
  • communicate what they have learnt orally and in writing
  • demonstrate an awareness of the verbal and visual methods of communication used by both playwrights
  • demonstrate insight into the contrasting ways both playwrights treat destructive patterns of interaction in their work
  • demonstrate an awareness of the contrasting ways in which both playwrights present male and female perspectives on life and relationships
  • demonstrate an understanding of the structural, visual and verbal techniques used by both playwrights to explore subjective experience.

Students will achieve these learning outcomes through:

  • concentrated reading of play texts and secondary sources (both critical and theatre historical)
  • viewing and discussing videos of specific productions of plays by Ibsen and Strindberg
  • seminar discussion, essay work, and a written examination question.