BA Music and Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Performance after Modernity: Conflict and Commerce

Unit code DRAM20052
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This module engages students in the questions, challenges, and problems posed by theatre and performance practitioners since World War II, which continue to shape how and why performance is made. The module investigates key developments in theatre and performance of the contemporary period. Students examine the theories and practices of a diverse range of European and North American practitioners in relation to the changing social and political contexts that have shaped the production and reception of their work.  Practitioners to be discussed include Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet, Jerzy Grotowski, Yvonne Rainer, Pina Bausch, Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group, Forced Entertainment, Robert Lepage, SuAndi, Holly Hughes, and Cherrie Moraga, among others. Students trace how recurring themes such as body, text, space, politics, and identity resurface in different guises across late modernity and postmodernity.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Theatre & Performance 1 - Texts DRAM10001 Pre-Requisite Optional
Theatre & Performance 2 - Concepts DRAM10002 Pre-Requisite Optional


  • To provide students with an opportunity to examine a broad coverage of innovative European and American theatre and performance practice from the mid-20th C to the early 21st C, through the analysis of a range of research materials, including dramatic and performance texts, manifestos, critical commentaries, performances and so on.
  • To build on and develop students' competencies in independent study, research and critical thinking in the context of a specified coverage of key practitioners and critics.


Indicative syllabus (representative only – all of the topics listed below may not be covered every year):


Week 1: Crises in Modernism, Part One: The Absurd (Samuel Beckett, Jean Genet)
Week 2: Crises in Modernism, Part Two: The Search for Authenticity (Jerzy Grotowski)

Week 3: Emergence of Postmodernism, Part One: Postmodern Theories (Happenings)

Week 4: Emergence of Postmodernism, Part Two: Dancing Differently (Yvonne Rainer, Pina Bausch)

Week 5: Playing with Categories (Robert Wilson, The Wooster Group)

Week 6: Playing with Time (Forced Entertainment, Robert Lepage)

Week 7: Feminism and Solo Performance (Holly Hughes, SuAndi)

Week 8: Playing with (and against) Identity: Queer Theatres (Cherrie Moraga, Reza Abdoh)

Week 9: Playing with Truth: Documentary and Verbatim Theatre

Week 10: The Real and the Fake (Marina Abramovic, Tim Crouch)

Teaching and learning methods

-          Lectures

-          Small group discussions and exercises

-          Theatre trips and screenings as appropriate

-          Designated consultation hours

The course unit will be complemented by a Blackboard site that conforms to minimum requirements including a course handbook, weekly course breakdown, provision of reading material, reading lists. Supplementary material from workshops will be added as appropriate. The blackboard site will be prepared and available to students at least one week prior to the beginning of the first teaching week each semester.

Knowledge and understanding

Knowledge and Understanding

  • Demonstrate knowledge of a range of materials relating to key theatre/performance practitioners working in the contemporary period.

  • Demonstrate familiarity and critical engagement with seminal theatre practitioners and critics relevant to the era studied.

  • Demonstrate a sound understanding of key conceptual and theoretical approaches to the study of contemporary theatres from the mid 20th to the early 21st century.


Intellectual skills

Intellectual Skills

  • Cross-referenced and compared different historical contexts and their relation to the formation and development of practice.
  • Developed arguments and analyses coherently through a range of assessment tasks.
  • Applied critically the relevant theoretical frameworks to particular case studies.


Practical skills


Practical Skills

  • Evidence a range of levels of comprehension and analysis of course materials, and a good ability to apply source materials through written assessment

  • Use a range of analytical methods to engage with historical and contemporary sources on theatre performance and its reception 

  • Developed their written analysis and presentation skills 


Transferable skills and personal qualities

Transferable Skills

  • Demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively with others about intellectually demanding concepts, topics, materials

  • Demonstrate an ability to draw with accuracy, focus, detail and precision on complex materials in independent and group work 

  • Demonstrate an ability to effectively present – through discussion and in writing – complex topics, drawing convincingly on oral, written and visual media as appropriate to the topic


Employability skills

Group/team working
an ability to work productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex challenges
an ability to develop detailed, planned and multi-layered approaches to tasks
Problem solving
a good level of critical thinking and problem-solving skills
an enhanced ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 70%
Oral assessment/presentation 30%

Feedback methods

Full written feedback on all assessments

Recommended reading

Philip Auslander (1997), From Acting to Performance: Essays in Modernism and Postmodernism

Roland Barthes (1993), "The Death of the Author," in Image-Music-Text

Elinor Fuchs (1996), The Death of Character: Perspectives on Theater after Modernism

Maggie B. Gale and John Deeney eds. (2010), The Routledge Drama Anthology and Sourcebook: from modernism to contemporary performance

Jean-François Lyotard (1979), The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 11
Seminars 16.5
Independent study hours
Independent study 172.5

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
David Calder Unit coordinator

Additional notes

Pre-requisite Units: DRAM10001 or DRAM10002

Return to course details