Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)


Department: English Studies


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 280 Location Durham


  • A level English Literature or Literature/Language at nothing less than Grade B.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To introduce students to the work of, and critical debate about, a wide historical range of drama and dramatists writing in English, typically covering work from all or most of the following areas: the medieval, early modern, Restoration and Augustan, Romantic, Victorian, and twentieth- and twenty-first century: post-medieval dramatists to be covered might include, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Behn, Gay, Shelley, Wilde, Shaw, O’Neill, Miller, Beckett, and Kushner .
  • To prepare students for the study of drama at levels 2 and 3 by acquainting them with a wide range of drama, tracing forms of continuity and change, and by alerting them to the variety of possibilities within the genre.
  • To analyse the chosen texts closely, at an appropriate level for students who have already obtained an A-level in English.
  • To introduce students to the genre of drama, in particular, conventions and modes of representation associated with 'realism' and challenges to realism.
  • To explore literary issues raised by drama, such as the nature of tragedy, comedy and tragi-comedy, the function of dramatic speech, the relationship between literature and society, and the interpretative implications of theatrical performance.
  • To raise fundamental questions about the nature of drama as a genre, and to establish the variety of approaches to drama by playwrights across the module.


  • An introduction to the genre of drama by concentrating on selected plays by major dramatists from the medieval to modern periods .
  • Emphasis is put on the following issues: close readings of dramatic texts, the relationship between text and performance, changing styles of production, ideological and cultural contextsTexts will include selected plays by such authors as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Behn, Gay, Shelley, Wilde, Shaw, O’Neill, Miller, Beckett, and Kushner.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • To gain knowledge of a body of dramatic work.
  • To gain an understanding of critical reasoning, including the ability to assess the critical ideas of others.
  • To gain an understanding of, and be able to analyse, the workings of dramatic texts.
  • To be aware of drama as a major genre, including issues relating to theatrical performance.
  • To gain an understanding of such matters as realism, tragedy, comedy, tragic-comedy, the function of dramatic speech, and the relationship between literature and society.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • critical skills in the close reading and analysis of texts
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of texts, authors, and critical approaches within this literary genre
  • an informed awareness of formal and aesthetic dimensions of literature and an ability to offer cogent analysis of their workings in specific texts relating to this literary genre
  • a sensitivity to generic conventions and to the shaping effects on communication of historical circumstances, and to the affective power of language
  • an ability to articulate and substantiate an imaginative response to literature
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to this literary genre
  • skills of effective communication and argument
  • a command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • an awareness of literature as a medium through which values are affirmed and debated
Key Skills:
  • Students studying this module will develop:
  • a capacity to analyse critically
  • an ability to acquire complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way involving the use of distinctive interpretative skills derived from the subject
  • a competence in the planning and execution of essays
  • a capacity for independent thought and judgement, and ability to assess the critical ideas of others
  • skills in critical reasoning
  • an ability to handle information and argument in a critical manner
  • information-technology skills such as word-processing and electronic data access information
  • organisation and time-management skills

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

  • Lectures: enable students to gain subject-specific knowledge of cultural, aesthetic and intellectual issues in relation to individual works and authors, an area or period, or a theoretical or language-related topic; encourage students to be aware of the range and variety of approaches to literary study; present ideas and information to encourage, on the part of students, further thought and discussion
  • Tutorials: enable students to explore, in a selective way, through small-group discussion, specific texts and topics (many of which will be addressed by lectures); to focus on selected literary issues and problems; and guide them in developing subject-specific analytical skills and knowledge
  • Formative essays: are written on a text or texts, or a literary topic, and they require the student to demonstrate appropriate subject-specific knowledge and skills, such as the ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to literary study. A considerable element of choice of essay topics encourages development in students of their capacity for independent thought and judgement.
  • Essay handbacks: encourage students to reflect critically and independently on their work
  • Independent but directed reading in preparation for lectures and tutorials provides opportunity for students to enrich subject-specific knowledge and enhances their ability to develop appropriate subject-specific skills.
  • Examination: tests the student's ability to present subject-specific knowledge, to select appropriate materials, and to construct and manage clear and effective arguments in a timed period; to demonstrate independent thinking, and test that students have achieved stated learning outcomes. Students would normally be required to show knowledge of both pre- and post-1800 Drama, and the instructions on the examination paper will reflect this.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 Weekly 1 hour 21
Tutorials 7 1 hour 7
Essay Handback Sessions 2 15 minutes 0.5
Preparation and Reading 171.5
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
one three hour written examination, closed book 100%

Formative Assessment:

2 tutorial essays (c.2000 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