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2020/21 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ENGL2040 Performing the Past

20 creditsClass Size: 11

Module manager: Dr Mark Taylor-Batty

Taught: Semester 1 View Timetable

Year running 2020/21

Module replaces

ENGL2060 Production Workshop 1ENGL2018 Performing the Past

This module is not approved as a discovery module


On completion of this module, students should be able to:
- Demonstrate understanding of how historical context informs the form and content of a dramatic text;
- Demonstrate a critical awareness of the social, historical and theatrical differences between the form and content of past and contemporary work;
- Demonstrate a critical awareness of the ways in which theatre created in the past might be adapted and produced to speak to contemporary audiences;
- Demonstrate an ability to adapt, edit or devise new work based on dramatic texts from the past, in ways that access them for contemporary audiences while continuing to acknowledge historical difference.

Learning outcomes
Students will have developed:
- the ability to use written and oral communication effectively;
- the capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse;
- the ability to manage quantities of complex information in a structured and systematic way;
- the capacity for independent thought and judgement;
- critical reasoning;
- research skills, including the retrieval of information, the organisation of material and the evaluation of its importance;
- IT skills;
- efficient time management and organisation skills;
- the ability to work as part of a team;
- the ability to learn independently.

Skills outcomes
- Skills for effective communication, oral and written.
- Capacity to analyse and critically examine diverse forms of discourse.
- Ability to acquire quantities of complex information of diverse kinds in a structured and systematic way.
- Ability to develop and carry through a project of relatively independent work.
- Capacity for independent thought and judgement.
- Critical reasoning.
- Research skills, including information retrieval skills, the organisation of material, and the evaluation of its importance.
- IT skills.
- Time management and organisational skills.
- Independent learning.
- Ability to communicate in a variety of oral and performance media.
- Creative and imaginative skills as shown through the realisation of practical research projects.
- An understanding of group dynamics and an ability to implement this understanding in a variety of contexts.
- The ability to negotiate and pursue goals with others.


This practically-oriented module looks at dramatic texts in historical context and explores what a text from another historical period might mean to us now. It examines the differences between the theatrical forms and thematic concerns of the past, and those of contemporary theatre and society. You will be asked to study and work practically on one or two plays from the same historical period, which may be by the same author or linked thematically. The module is taught in three stages - Contextual Research, Practical Exploration and Realisation; this allows you to research the period in which the chosen plays were written, to explore their practical potential and to stage an adaptation for a modern audience. ‘Performing the Past’, then, invites you to stage your own dialogue between the theatre of the past and the contemporary world.

Weeks 1-4: Stage One: Contextual Research.
In small groups, you will work towards unassessed presentations of research on the performance history of the play assigned to you, its social and political contexts. You will be asked to consider the questions: how do the play’s original conditions of production affect its form and content? How do the events and social structures of the time in which the play was written affect its aesthetic, form and content?

Weeks 5-6: Stage Two: Practical Exploration.
At this stage, you will work closely with a tutor to examine how the selected plays work theatrically. You will be asked to consider the kinds of acting style, staging and relationship with the audience the plays appear to demand, and to explore the effect of experimenting with other possibilities.

Weeks 8-11 Stage Three: Realisation.
Finally, you will work in small groups to produce a short piece of theatre that presents an aspect of one of the selected texts that particularly interests you. This might involve editing or adapting the text to focus on a particular theme, character or social grouping from the play. Using the play as a stimulus for a devised piece of work that uses very little of the original text is also a possibility; guidance will be given to ensure that the objectives of the module are being fulfilled.

Teaching methods

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours170.00
Total Contact hours30.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

25 hours- reading/research preparation
35 hours - workshop preparation
75 hours - devising/rehearsal
32 hours - towards self-assessment.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Progress will be monitored through the assessment of students' group research projects, through practical workshops, discussion and staff attendance at rehearsal.

Methods of assessment

Due to COVID-19, teaching and assessment activities are being kept under review - see module enrolment pages for information

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
PresentationGroup practical presentation (N.B. in the event of lockdown, the practical would be replaced by a live presentation of scenes using online tools)80.00
Critique2,000 word critical appraisal of the performance project, providing each student with the opportunity to discuss the concepts underpinning the creative process and to evaluate the final production.20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The module will also include unassessed group presentations of research. This is a module requirement and MUST be completed. Students who do not fulfil this requirement will be awarded a maximum mark of 40 for the module (a bare Pass).

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 10/08/2020 08:36:18


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