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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Centre for Open Learning : Literature, Languages and Cultures

Undergraduate Course: An Introduction to Comedy (LLLG07110)

Course Outline
SchoolCentre for Open Learning CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 7 (Year 1 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits10 ECTS Credits5
SummaryDuring this course, students will be encouraged to think critically about the purpose of dramatic comedy and its historic role in society. We will examine a wide range of plays, from ancient to modern, and consider theoretical analyses of the genre. A wide variety of plays will be examined, from ancient to new. We shall read extracts from Aristotle's Poetics, and further examine the origins of Comedy and dramatic theory through Greek and Roman plays such as The Frogs by Aristophanes and The Brothers Menaechmus. We shall explore the ideas of Bergson as presented in Le Rire.
We shall read and watch an example of a Shakespeare comedy, and consider the influences Greek and Roman writers had on his writing.
We shall investigate the cruel face of Restoration Comedy through plays such as The Country Wife by Wycherley and explore social and complex family dynamics in Goldsmith's healing comedy, She Stoops to Conquer. We will read and watch a selection of late 19th C and 20th C plays, during which we will examine situation comedy, farce, theatre of the absurd and comedies of manners.
Course description Week 1: Introduction to some theories of Comedy including the ideas of Bergson in Le Rire (Laughter). Is laughter a 'sign of our baser nature' as Aristotle claimed?
Week 2: The origins of Comedy in the ancient Greeks and Romans and medieval religious drama: The Frogs by Aristophanes, The Brothers Menaechmus by Plautus and extracts to be provided from medieval religious drama
Week 3: Commedia dell'Arte and its influence on Moliere's The Miser and School for Wives. Extracts will be provided.
Week 4: Shakespearean comedy: The Comedy of Errors (1593) and its origins in Plautus's Menaechmi: the confusions caused by identical twins.
Week 5: Restoration Comedy: The Country Wife (1674/5) by Wycherley. Comedy of manners shows its cruel face.
Week 6: Complex family dynamics in Goldsmith's healing comedy, She Stoops to Conquer (1773)
Week 7: The Importance of Being Earnest (1895). Oscar Wilde's 'heartless' comedy of doubles and double standards.
Week 8: Absurdist comedy: Waiting for Godot (1955) by Becket, billed in America as 'the laugh hit of two continents'!
Week 9: Darker farce with classical roots from Joe Orton: What the Butler Saw (1969)
Week 10: Comedy of Manners returns to the London stage with a vengeance: Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party (1983)
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2022/23, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  16
Course Start Lifelong Learning - Session 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 100 ( Lecture Hours 20, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 2, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 78 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%.
Feedback Detailed feedback is provided on both an optional, formative piece of work, and the final piece of assessed coursework
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Identify the chief ingredients of the dramatic comic genre, drawing on drama theory ancient to modern
  2. Analyse recurrent comic situations and character types in a wide range of plays
  3. Apply theories of comedy to the plays, and demonstrate awareness of social and political contexts.
Reading List
Aristophanes. The Frogs and other Plays. London: Penguin (2007)
Plautus. The Pot of Gold and other Plays. London: Penguin (2004)
William Shakespeare. The Comedy of Errors. Cambridge: New Cambridge Shakespeare (2004)
William Wycherley. The Country Wife in Three Restoration Comedies. London: Penguin (2005)
Oliver Goldsmith. She Stoops to Conquer in Four English Comedies of the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. London: Penguin (1981)
Oscar Wilde. The Importance of Being Earnest and other plays. London: Penguin (2000)
Samuel Becket. Waiting for Godot. London: Faber & Faber (2006)
Joe Orton. What the Butler Saw. London: Methuen 1969)
Mike Leigh. Abigail¿s Party and Goose Pimples. London: Penguin (1983)
W. Moelwyn Merchant. Comedy.London: Routledge (1972)
Matthew Bevis. Comedy: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: OUP (2012)
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Confidence in discussing texts
Ability to articulate knowledge and arguments coherently
Ability to assess secondary materials
Course organiserMr Douglas Dougan
Course secretaryMs Kameliya Skerleva
Tel: (0131 6)51 1855
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