Theatre and Ideas - DR683

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Module delivery information

Location Term Level1 Credits (ECTS)2 Current Convenor3 2021 to 2022
(version 2)
Spring 6 30 (15) DR S May checkmark-circle


This module will ask students to critically engage with fundamental questions about theatre, such as 'what is performance?', 'who decides what a performance means?', 'why do we care about the fates of fictional characters?', 'why do we enjoy watching tragic events on stage?', 'what ethical questions does performance raise?', 'can performance be a kind of philosophy?'. After writing an essay focussing on one of these questions, the class will then turn its attention to a specific performance text and the various conceptual and philosophical questions that arise from it. Once they have engaged with a range of theoretical perspectives on the text the course will culminate in an assessed presentation where the students propose a production which engages with these issues.


Contact hours

Total contact hours: 48
Private study hours: 252
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods:

Essay (3,500 words) (40%)
Presentation (40%)
Seminar Diary (2,500 words) (20%).

Reassessment methods:
Like for Like

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List:

Critchley, S. (2004) Very Littleā€¦Almost Nothing. (2nd Edition). London: Routledge.
Cull, L. & Lagaay, A. (2014) Encounters in Performance Philosophy. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Esslin, M. (1970) Theatre of the Absurd: Revised and Enlarged Edition. London: Penguin Books
Lamarque, P. & Olson, S. (2004) Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art: The Analytic Tradition. London: Blackwells.
Ridout, N. (2009) Theatre & Ethics. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
Stern, T. (2013) Philosophy and Theatre: An Introduction. London: Routledge.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate an ability to combine creative and conceptual ideas in a cogent and coherent manner.
2 Demonstrate a systematic understanding of the relationship between theoretical and philosophical ideas and performance practice.
3 Demonstrate a deep understanding of the ways in which performance can support or enrich a critical understanding of theoretical ideas.
4 Express themselves articulately orally, in debate and discussion, and in writing through the development of sustained argument and the use of ideas at the forefront of the discipline.
5 Demonstrate a thorough knowledge and systematic understanding of key aspects of ethical, aesthetic and political philosophy and its implications for performance.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Work collaboratively with other students, thereby gaining a deep understanding of group dynamics and handling interpersonal issues.
2 Apply the methods, skills and ideas they have learned to review and extend their knowledge to carry out projects.
3 Apply critical and creative skills in diverse forms of discourse and media.
4 Demonstrate an ability to communicate effectively, to a professional standard, coherent and sustained arguments in a variety of media, verbally and in writing.
5 Work independently on a self-directed research project, thus developing organisational skills and demonstrating an ability to manage their own learning.


  1. Credit level 6. Higher level module usually taken in Stage 3 of an undergraduate degree.
  2. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  3. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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