ENMUS-The unruly stage in Shakespearean England

Module Provider: English Literature
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2016/7

Module Convenor: Prof Michelle O'Callaghan

Email: m.f.ocallaghan@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:
What was the place of the stage in early modern England – how is the theatre and its cultural role to be understood? On the one hand, theatrical companies served the court, providing entertainment for the monarch; on the other, plays threatened public order through their illicit pleasures and dangerous debates. This module provides the opportunity to explore the contradictory status of the early modern theatre through a range of optional topics. Theatre, the state and censorship provides one avenue for addressing this issue, through the study of censored plays, such as Shakespeare’s Richard II and Middleton’s popular and controversial Game at Chess. The concept of the ‘paper stage’ enables us to assess theatre’s participation in a wider public sphere by extending the parameters of public performance to include scurrilous pamphlets, satires and libels. Playwrights put London on stage allowing us to analyse the way social spaces (shops, taverns, prisons) are dramatised, from Dekker’s Shoemaker’s Holiday to Middleton’s Chaste Maid in Cheapside, as well as conditions of playgoing in early modern London. By attending to the body of the actor in performance, in plays such as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Jonson’s Epicoene, we can engage with recent critical work in gender and performance studies.

This module aims to provide knowledge and understanding of the material, cultural and performance conditions of the early modern theatre. It aims to introduce students to the key theoretical and historical issues that inform early modern theatre studies, and the changing religious, social and political ideas across this period, and to encourage students to engage critically with methods of analysis.

Assessable learning outcomes:
By the end of the module, students will be expected to:
-Identify the main developments in the history of the early modern theatre
-Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of selected early modern texts as they relate to issues of performance
-Formulate critical questions and analyze texts in relation to critical debates about the material, cultural and political conditions of the early modern theatre
-Conduct and demonstrate independent thought and research in the selection and analysis of texts

Additional outcomes:

Outline content:
The module will begin by introducing students to the cultural, political, and material conditions of the early modern theatre. Students will then be given the opportunity to follow distinct pathways within the module. Students can study theatre and politics by examining case studies in early modern censorship, such as Shakespeare’s Richard II (1597, 1598) and Middleton’s Game at Chess (1624). They will be able to explore the interaction between the theatre and other forms of media, including satires and pamphlets, such as those by Dekker, in order to engage with recent work on performance cultures and the early modern public sphere. Students can concentrate on the representation of early modern London on the stage, through the study of city comedies, including Jonson’s Epicoene (1609). There will also be the opportunity to engage with recent work on the performance conditions of the early modern theatre, for example, by studying the figure of the boy actor on stage, both in adult and children’s theatre companies, and in plays such as Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (1602). Throughout, students will engage with relevant theoretical and critical material about the subject.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:
The module consists of eleven weekly seminars, each two hours in length. Each seminar will involve discussion of texts or special materials that have been set and prepared in advance. The module teacher will also be available for consultation with students on a one-to-one basis to discuss their work and the progress of the module as a whole.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 22
Tutorials 1
Guided independent study: 177
Total hours by term 18
Total hours for module

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:
Not applicable.

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:
Aside from the set readings and questions for discussion, students must submit a 4000-word essay on a topic of their choice, in which they will respond to and develop upon an aspect of the material covered in the seminars. The specific title will be determined by the student in consultation with the module convenor.

Formative assessment methods:
Presentations with feedback.

Penalties for late submission:
Penalties for late submission on this module are in accordance with the University policy. Please refer to page 5 of the Postgraduate Guide to Assessment for further information: http://www.reading.ac.uk/internal/exams/student/exa-guidePG.aspx

Assessment requirements for a pass:

Reassessment arrangements:
Re-submission of coursework.

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: 29 October 2019


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