- Department: English and Related Literature
- Module co-ordinator: Prof. Brian Cummings
- Credit value: 20 credits
- Credit level: H
- Academic year of delivery: 2023-24
Tragedy is one of the primal genres of world literature. It has attracted philosophers as well as poets from all periods. This course aims to cover literature ranging from ancient Greece to the present day, alongside themes concerning death, chance, and personhood.
Tragedy contemplates human experience at its extreme, placing us face to face with violent death. In this cross-period course, we examine tragedy from three cultural centres: from the mythological family conflicts of Sophocles and Euripides; to the hybrid experiments in naturalistic theatre in Shakespeare; to Beckett’s modernist meditations on mortality, loss and suffering. We also consider the long-term engagement of philosophers with tragedy: in Plato and Aristotle; Freud and Nietzsche; Benjamin and Deleuze.
At the heart of the course is the place theatre has held in society and how it answers to questions of life and death, or youth and old age. Tragedy has been used throughout history to understand suffering, distress and trauma; necessity, change, and misfortune; and also to construct spectacles of human response to catastrophic events, whether through ideas of heroism, ethics, subjectivity, or loss. The course examines the fullest possible range of theatrical experiences of women and men in diverse literatures of the stage.
|A||Semester 2 2023-24|
The aim of the course is to investigate theatre in a range of contexts (ancient, Renaissance, or modern) including theatrical history, gender, politics, and religion. We will also discuss tragedy as a philosophical concept and examine ideas in a critical way. Topics covered in the course include death and dying; rituals of mourning; women in society; the Oedipus Complex and the Elektra Complex; fathers and daughters; memory and oblivion; poetry and elegy; political catastrophe and the apocalypse.
On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with a range of texts from Ancient Greece to Renaissance and twentieth or twenty-first century plays
Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with performance in the theatre in different contexts, including the use of masks, female and male acting styles, and ritual and gesture in movement
Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields especially concerning the changing relationships between theatre, performance, and social and philosophical ideas of life and death
Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.
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You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your tutor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours
For more information about the feedback you will receive for your work, see the department's Guide to Assessment
Possible authors and plays of study:
Sophocles, Oedipus the King / Antigone
Euripides, Medea, Bacchae
Shakespeare, Hamlet / Othello / King Lear
Elizabeth Carey, Tragedy of Miriam
Samuel Beckett, Endgame / Happy Days / Footfalls / Rockaby
Sarah Kane, Blasted
Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy
Freud, Beyond the Pleasure Principle
Martha Nussbaum, The Fragility of Goodness