Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2020-2021 (archived)

Module ENGL42430: Post War British Drama

Department: English Studies

ENGL42430: Post War British Drama

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2020/21 Module Cap 10


  • •Students must hold a good BA degree in English or a related subject to be eligible for entry onto the MA in English Literary Studies.


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • British theatre of the post Second World War era has been marked by its constant and radical developments, and this module aims to provide students with a detailed knowledge of the major dramatists, movements, and themes that have dominated British drama in this period.
  • Building upon skills developed in undergraduate study, this module will further enhance the ability of students to provide detailed and nuanced readings of dramatic texts, and will also encourage students to explore how such texts were transformed in performance.
  • Students will also gain a detailed knowledge of how the activities and ambitions of such theatre has been theorised, whether in the influential manifestos issued by practitioners such as Brecht, Bond, Brook, and McGrath, or in later waves of scholarly work that have attempted to situate such drama within a wider narrative.


  • This module will range widely across drama of the era. The full span of texts will be determined in light of discussions with the class, but core texts will include works by Edward Bond, Howard Brenton, Peter Brook, Jez Butterworth, Caryl Churchill, David Hare, Sarah Kane, John McGrath, John Osborne, Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill, Tom Stoppard and Roy Williams.
  • We will also examine the impact of influential directors (such as Peter Brook and Joan Littlewood) and critics (such as Kenneth Tynan).
  • Broader issues that will frame our analysis will include:
  • The rise of the New Wave and the 'Angry Young Men'.
  • The impact of historical events such as the break-up of the British Empire.
  • The widespread challenges to received class, gender, racial and sexual structures and norms.
  • The influence of modernist dramatists such as Bertolt Brecht and Samuel Beckett.
  • Debates about censorship and scandal.
  • The role of institutions such as the Royal Court Theatre.
  • Contemporary trends such as in-yer-face, verbatim theatre, and plays that have met with critical success since 2007.
  • We will also consider the historiographical debates concerning this era of British drama, paying particular attention to revisionist accounts that have recently challenged received views of seminal moments on the British stage.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A detailed and sophisticated knowledge of the dramatic texts studied in the course, as well as a sound knowledge of how these texts have been adapted in performance.
  • A familiarity with the core ideas of some of the major modern theatre theorists and practitioners.
  • A wide knowledge of the key movements and trends that have occurred within British drama over the past 70 years.
  • An awareness of the range of social and political factors that have shaped modern British theatre.
  • A close familiarity with a range of scholarly interpretations of influential dramatic texts, as well as an awareness of the broader critical debates that have occurred in the field of modern theatre history.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • Advanced critical skills in the close reading and analysis of literary texts;
  • An ability to demonstrate advanced knowledge of a chosen field of literary studies;
  • An ability to offer advanced analysis of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature;
  • An ability to articulate and substantiate at a high level an imaginative response to literature;
  • An ability to demonstrate an advanced understanding of the cultural, intellectual, socio-political and linguistic contexts of literature;
  • An ability to articulate an advanced knowledge and understanding of conceptual or theoretical literary material;
  • An advanced command of a broad range of vocabulary and critical literary terminology.
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • an advanced ability to analyse critically;
  • an advanced ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in structured and systematic ways;
  • an advanced ability to interpret complex information of diverse kinds through the distinctive skills derived from the subject;
  • expertise in conventions of scholarly presentation and bibliographical skills;
  • an independence of thought and judgement, and ability to assess acutely the critical ideas of others;
  • sophisticated skills in critical reasoning;
  • an advanced ability to handle information and argument critically;
  • a competence in information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access;
  • professional organisation and time-management skills.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students are encouraged to develop advanced conceptual abilities and analytical skills as well as the ability to communicate an advanced knowledge within seminars.
  • The capacity for advanced independent study is demonstrated through the completion of two summative pieces of work (3,000 words in length).
  • Typically, directed learning may include assigning student(s) an issue, theme or topic that can be independently or collectively explored within a framework and/or with additional materials provided by the tutor. This may function as preparatory work for presenting their ideas or findings (sometimes electronically) to their peers and tutor in the context of a seminar.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 9 Weekly in Epiphany 2 hours 18
Independent student research supervised by the Module Convenor 10
Preparation and reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Coursework Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Summative essay 3,000 words 40%
Summative essay 3,000 words 60%

Formative Assessment:

One essay of not more than 2,000 words.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University