BA Drama / Course details

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Gender and Sexuality on the 20th Century Stage

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM32022
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


The course explores ways in which gender and sexuality have been represented, constructed and considered on stage throughout what historian Eric Hobsbawm calls ‘the short 20th century’, from the New Woman to queer performance in the 1990s. Students will be introduced to dramatic and theoretical works that defined, challenged and refined the performance of gender and sexuality through the century. The course covers a range of plays performed in Britain and America, some well-known and some now barely known, and considers the sociocultural and dramatic contexts that have influenced them. In studying well-known works alongside those lost from the mainstream, students will be asked to consider the extent to which ideas of gender and sexuality have been constructed, confirmed or challenged by these works. Influential theoretical and historical texts and other cultural works (e.g., films, art works, literature) from the period will be read alongside the plays with the intention of providing students with a context for the plays’ first production, reception, and subsequent impact.


Unit title Unit code Requirement type Description
Screen, Culture and Society DRAM20041 Pre-Requisite Optional
DRAM20052 Pre-Requisite Optional
Theatres of Modernity DRAM20051 Pre-Requisite Optional

Pre-requisite units

Any L1 Drama Study or Practical core option


Any L2 Drama Study core option - Practitioners in Context 1; Practitioners in Context 2; Screen, Culture and Society




  • To critically engage with a range of plays and historical and cultural texts relating to the representation and construction of gender and sexuality
  • To develop a nuanced and layered understanding of the way in which gender roles have been constituted, confirmed and contested through dramatic presentation
  • To explore theatre as a forum for debate and role-modelling of socio-cultural change
  • To develop enhanced skills in researching and analysing historical objects and artefacts

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a systematic understanding of critical sources and debates around gender and sexuality in the 20th century, as relevant to theatre studies
  • Demonstrate awareness of the contexts in which dramatic texts are created, disseminated and act as agents of change or reinforcing of norms
  • Engage critically with a range of historical and contemporary examples of drama in relation to their representations of gender and sexuality, including dramatic works that have not yet received substantial critical attention

Intellectual skills

  • Recognise the limits of knowledge, and its influence on analysis and interpretations, and to use this to develop sustained responses to materials as well as identify areas for on-going learning
  • Develop articulate, convincing arguments about the ways in which gender and sexuality are inscribed through performance and articulate these in both written and spoken work.
  • Develop a layered understanding of the ways in which the dissemination of cultural products determines behaviour and how challenging repertoires and canons can contest such behaviour
  • Synthesise and analyse a range of critical texts and research resources, both historical and contemporary, to make a case for re-introducing work to the repertoire

Practical skills

  • Communicate complex, multi-layered arguments and counter-arguments effectively, in written and verbal form
  • Locate multiple forms of documentation using museum, library and archival resources, including databases and finding aids
  • Manage own learning, including making use of advanced research scholarship and/or neglected primary sources in the area, at least some of which was identified independently

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Be able to communicate and work as a team, especially when providing peer feedback
  • demonstrate an advanced ability to self-manage learning – to ask questions independently, identify relevant research material, take initiative, make decisions, and develop independent and sustained responses to complex problems
  • demonstrate an understanding of ethical principles
  • gain practical experience of locating and handling historical materials

Employability skills

¿ Advanced critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills ¿ Advanced ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility ¿ Working productively as part of a group and independently in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges ¿ Ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to difference audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics

Assessment methods

Critical Portfolio 40%
Research essay 60%
Presentation NA (formative)


Feedback methods

Presentation - In class discussion


Portfolio and Research essay – Written


Portfolio and Research essay plans –  opportunity to discuss with course tutor



Recommended reading

Elaine Aston and Janelle Reinelt 'The Question of the Canon', The Cambridge Companion to Modern British Women Playwrights (CUP, 2000)


Jill Dolan, The Feminist Spectator in Action: Feminist Criticism for the Stage and Screen (Palgrave 2013)


Richard Dyer, The Culture of Queers (Routledge, 2002)


Lynette Goddard, Contemporary Black British Playwrights: Margins to Mainstream (Palgrave 2015)


Gabrielle Griffin, Contemporary Black and Asian Women Playwrights in Britain (CUP, 2003)


Jordan Schildcrout, Murder Most Queer: The Homicidal Homosexual in American Theatre (University of Michigan Press, 2017)


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Katharine Dorney Unit coordinator

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