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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures : English Literature

Postgraduate Course: Tragedy and Modernity (ENLI11152)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the attempts made by various schools of theatre to revive the concept of tragedy within modernity.

The crisis in enlightenment thinking triggers a debate about the possibility (or impossibility) of the tragic. The various schools of performance tackle this issue in differing and sometimes conflicting ways.

Athenian Tragedy provides a set of conventions and concepts that are reworked in modernist fashion. At the same time, it provides an example of the vexed relationships between modernity, tradition and classicism. As a reconfiguration of the sublime, the aesthetic or political, the tragic, as form and content, helps create new languages of performance.

Through the works of Ibsen, Strindberg, Yeats, Wilde, Brecht, Beckett, and Heiner Muller this course examines the types of tragedy formulated within modernity.
Course description Week 1: Introduction / The impact of Nietzsche
Week 2: Tragedy and Naturalism I - Henrik Ibsen, Ghosts, The Wild Duck
Week 3: Tragedy and Naturalism II - August Strindberg, The Father, Miss Julie
Week 4: Tragedy and Poetic Drama I - W.B. Yeats, 'At the Hawk's Well' and 'Purgatory'; Oscar Wilde, Salome
Week 5: Tragedy and Poetic Drama II - Eugene O'Neill, Long Day's Journey into Night
Week 6: Tragedy and Epic I - Bertolt Brecht, Mother Courage and her Children, The Life of Galileo
Week 7: Tragedy and Epic II - Brecht and Walter Benjamin
Week 8: The End of Tragedy - Samuel Beckett, Endgame
Week 9: Samuel Beckett, Happy Days, Not I
Week 10: Post-Brechtian Tragedy - Heiner Muller, Medeamaterial, The Hamletmachine
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. to familiarise students with classical as well as modern theories of tragedy
  2. to examine the significance of psychoanalysis for tragic theory
  3. to familiarise students of the significance of performance conventions
  4. to create awareness of movements of performance
  5. to create a comparative approach between the different playwrights and to assess the significance of tragic theory within general literary theory
Reading List
Further reading
Friedrich Nietzsche (1954). The Birth of Tragedy and The Genealogy of Morals, trans. Francis Golffing. New York: Doubleday Anchor Books
John Drakakis and Naomi Conn Liebler (eds), (1998). Tragedy. London: Longman
Miguel de Beistegui and Simon Sparks (eds), (2000). Philosophy and Tragedy. London: Routledge
Walter Benjamin (1985). The Origin of German Tragic Drama, trans. John Osborne. London: Verso
Theodor Adorno (1991). Notes to Literature, trans. Rolf Tiedemann. New York: Columbia University Press
John Willet (1993), Brecht on Theatre. London: Methuen
Parker and Sedgwick (eds) (1995). Performance and Performativity. London: Routledge
Errol Durbach (1980). Ibsen and the Theatre. London: Macmillan
George Bryan (1984). An Ibsen Companion. Westpoint: Greenwood Press
James Walter McFarlane (1994). The Cambridge Companion to Ibsen. Cambridge: CUP
Otto Reinent (1971). Strindberg: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey: Prentice Hall
Christopher Innes (2000). A Sourcebook on Naturalist Theatre. London: Routledge
Peter Raby (1997). The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde. Cambridge: CUP
Peter Thomson and Gledyr Sacks (1994). The Cambridge Companion to Brecht. Cambridge: CUP
Walter Benjamin (1992). Understanding Brecht. London: Verso
Richard Wolin (1994). Walter Benjamin: An Aesthetic of Redemption. New York: University of California Press
Jonathan Kalb (1998). The Theatre of Heiner Muller. Cambridge: CUP
Judith Butler (1990). Gender Trouble. London: Routledge
---------------- (2000). Antigone¿s Claim. New York: Columbia University Press.
Olga Taxidou, Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2004
Rita Felski (ed), Rethinking Tragedy, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
Special Arrangements MSc only
Course organiserProf Olga Taxidou
Tel: (0131 6)50 3611
Course secretaryMiss Kara Mccormack
Tel: (0131 6)50 3030
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