EN2EMT-Early Modern Theatre Practice

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites: English Part 1 or A-Level (A*, A or B)
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Mark Hutchings

Email: m.p.v.hutchings@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

This module explores how early English drama worked in practice. Students will learn about where drama was staged, acting practices, and conventions; we will focus on how the stage space in the early modern playhouse (outdoors and indoors) may have been used. Using both modern editions and the earliest printed texts we explore the staging permutations of these plays, and pay particular attention to the ways in which entrances and exits represent the fundamental structure of a dramatic text, a structure that operated on several planes – practical, conventional, symbolic. We will investigate how the apparently prosaic business of getting characters on and off stage invites detailed analysis, and how through theorising the onstage and offstage spaces accessed through these openings may provide refreshing and illuminating perspectives on how early modern playmakers made theatre.


How might we read and interpret the most basic of theatre directions, ‘enter’/‘exit’? This module introduces students to early modern playmaking and the distinctive performance practices of the early modern theatre. Until the late sixteenth century drama took place in temporary spaces and structures; with the advent of purpose-built playhouses it developed as a craft with specific conventions and practices. With reference to a range of plays the module examines how playmakers staged plays and explores the fruitful interplay between the earliest texts and the latest scholarship in theatre history.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module it is expected that students will be able to:

•demonstrate an understanding of early modern drama and the texts selected for study
•identify and analyse in detail the architectural features of the early modern dramatic text, both in its original printed form and in modern editions
•demonstrate an understanding of the architectural and logistical properties of the early modern theatre
•appreciate and understand dramatic structure in relation to performance practice
•read the characteristics of the early modern printed play-texts
•creatively imagine the possible staging(s) of scenes
•engage critically with the ideas presented in lectures, seminars, or secondary materials
•organize and articulate a coherent written argument, both in coursework essays and under timed examination conditions.

Additional outcomes:

Oral and written communication skills will be developed, together with critical, interpretative and analytical abilities. Students will also enhance their IT competence through the use of relevant web resources in a critically informed manner. Students will use electronic archives for the earliest printed texts, chiefly Early English Books Online (EEBO), as well as a range of internet resources and dvd material relevant to early modern theatre culture. Students will develop transferrable skills for use both in the final year of the degree and beyond in their professional careers.

Outline content:

Texts may include Arden of Faversham (c.1592), A Chaste Maid in Cheapside (1613), and The Changeling (1622). Key critical texts will include Andrew Gurr & Mariko Ichikawa’s Staging in Shakespeare’s Theatres (2000), and the work of Alan C. Desson, such as his and Leslie Thompson’s A Dictionary of Stage Directions in English Drama, 1580-1642 (1999), and Tim Fitzpatrick’s ‘two-door’ theory, as well as selected handouts.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

A combination of lectures, guided study groups, and structured seminar discussion, for which students are required to do preparatory reading, and practical workshops in the Bob Kayley Theatre in the Department of Film, Theatre and Television. Students are also entitled to a half-hour tutorial on their formative essay. With the consent of the module convenor, students may also undertake a placement, through which they will learn how to apply the knowledge and skills gained in studying for this module in a professional context outside the University.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 5 1
Seminars 5
Tutorials 0.5
Practicals classes and workshops 10 2
Guided independent study 137.5 39
Total hours by term 158.00 42.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written exam 67
Written assignment including essay 33

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Students write one formative essay, of approximately 1500 words. Feedback will also be provided on the assessed essay of 2000 words, or the equivalent placement report. Feedback on written exams will be available on request from the Director of Teaching and Learning.

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:
    A mark of at least 40% overall.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Re-examination in August. Coursework will be carried forward if it bears a confirmed mark of 40% or more. Otherwise it must be resubmitted by 25 August 2018 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):
    1) Required text books:
    2) Specialist equipment or materials:
    3) Specialist clothing, footwear or headgear:
    4) Printing and binding:
    5) Computers and devices with a particular specification:
    6) Travel, accommodation and subsistence:

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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