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Study information

Modernist Drama in Contemporary Theatre

Module titleModernist Drama in Contemporary Theatre
Module codeDRA2092
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Adrian Curtin (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module explores how innovative and provocative drama from the international modernist movement (circa the late nineteenth to the mid twentieth century) is reimagined and restaged in contemporary theatre. In returning to these plays, dramatists and theatre-makers can make them newly relevant by adapting them and using them as inspiration for the creation of new work. In doing so they help us to understand these plays in a new light, expanding upon their artistic potential and allowing us to reconsider our relationship to the past and to re-evaluate the present.

In this module you will read a variety of modernist plays by diverse playwrights from around the world. You will historicise and theorise these plays and analyse contemporary re-workings, using play-texts and recordings of theatre productions available online. As part of the module you will collaborate with others to develop a hypothetical re-working of a modernist play.

If you are interested in learning about modern theatre history, in reading and analysing plays, and in imagining how plays can be transformed and re-presented, then this module will have much to offer you.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module aims:

  • to introduce you to modernism in general, and to modernist drama, in particular
  • to help you to situate modernist plays in their historical contexts
  • to examine how and why contemporary dramatists and theatre-makers re-present modernist plays
  • to enable you to use scholarly writing to interpret dramatic texts and theatrical performances

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Identify and explain salient features of modernist drama and contemporary re-workings thereof
  • 2. Outline a hypothetical re-working of a modernist play that is artistically nuanced, socially conscious, and historically mindful
  • 3. Analyse, in written form, a contemporary re-working of a modernist play, using critical theory and historiography

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 4. Contribute research to small groups in effective presentations, to evaluate evidence and analyse, critique and manipulate complex material
  • 5. Apply library and IT skills in independent additional research

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Develop personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies
  • 7. Develop group cooperation skills, including the ability to give and receive constructive critical feedback and to improve communication skills and analytic abilities in discussions

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • modernism
  • theatrical modernism
  • theories of adaptation, particularly as they relate to drama and theatre
  • critical theory and its application to the analysis of drama and theatre
  • modernist drama
  • contemporary theatre
  • postmodernism

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching33Seminar activities and tutorials
Guided independent study99Preparation for seminars
Guided independent study57Preparation for presentation
Guided independent study111Essay preparation and writing

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Presentation plan1000 words1-2, 4-5, 7Written and oral
Essay plan1000 words1, 3, 5-6Written and oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation4015 minutes per student1-2, 4-5, 7Written
Essay603000 words1, 3, 5-6written

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationIndividual presentation1,2,5,6Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1,2,5,6Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Babbage, Frances. Adaptation in Contemporary Theatre: Performing Literature. London: Bloomsbury, 2017.
  • Berghaus, Günter. Theatre, Performance, and the Historical Avant-Garde. New York: Palgrave, 2010.
  • Brodie, Geraldine, and Emma Cole. Adapting Translation for the Stage. London: Taylor & Francis, 2017.
  • Brooker, Peter et al., eds. The Oxford Handbook of Modernisms. Oxford University Press, 2010.
  • Friedman, Susan Stanford. Planetary Modernisms: Provocations on Modernity across Time. Columbia University Press, 2015.
  • Gale, Maggie B., and John F. Deeney, eds. The Routledge Drama Anthology and Sourcebook: From Modernism to Contemporary Performance. London: Routledge, 2012.
  • Johnston, Kirsty. Disability Theatre and Modern Drama: Recasting Modernism. London: Bloomsbury, 2016.
  • Laera, Margherita, ed. Theatre and Adaptation: Return, Rewrite, Repeat. London: Bloomsbury, 2014.
  • Lindgren, Allana, and Stephen Ross, eds. The Modernist World. London: Routledge, 2015.
  • Puchner, Martin. Stage Fright: Modernism, Anti-Theatricality, and Drama. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2002.
  • Reilly, Kara, ed. Contemporary Approaches to Adaptation in Theatre. London: Palgrave, 2018.
  • Shepherd-Barr, Kirsten. Modern Drama: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.
  • Warden, Claire. Modernist and Avant-Garde Performance: An Introduction. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
  • Wollaeger, Mark, and Matt Eatough, eds. The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Worthen, William B. Print and the Poetics of Modern Drama. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Zinman, Toby. Replay: Classic Modern Drama Reimagined. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Modernism, drama, contemporary theatre, adaptation

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date