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20th Century Irish Theatre






School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

TH216 - Aspects of Theatre and Performance: 20th Century Irish Theatre

Tutor: Dr Wallace McDowell (





This module looks at key developments in Irish theatre in the twentieth century. Beginning with the foundation of the Abbey theatre and with the theatre’s engagement with nationalist politics, we will examine the relationship between performance and the wider cultural, social and political issues of twentieth century Ireland. We will explore how a set of important cultural discourses in Irish and Northern Irish society have influenced themes in theatre and performance and how those themes have contributed to images of Irish identity and culture.


Module Aims

The module will investigate:

§ How ‘Irishness’ was depicted in a range of plays and performances in the 20th Century

§ How the staging of Irish plays are affected by concepts such as landscape, memory, history and myth

§ How the Irish theatre reflected the formation of an Irish nation and was used to both rehearse and critique Ireland after the English

§ How Irish playwrights have used major historical events to reflect on contemporary events

§ How Irish plays and performances have engaged with the wider international world


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

§ analyse representations of ‘Irishness’ in the 20th Century in a range of plays and performances stories

§ demonstrate an understanding of the relevant social/cultural/economic background that informed the development, and reception of Irish identity through the Irish theatre

§ Students will achieve these learning outcomes through:

  • concentrated reading of primary and secondary material
  • research preparation activities, seminar discussion, essay work, preparation of presentations and written examination


TUESDAYS 1600-1800 G56