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

Undergraduate Course: Illness and Disability in Modern and Contemporary Theatre (ENLI10426)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Literatures, Languages and Cultures CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course explores the representation of disability and illness in British, Irish and American theatre from the 1940s to the present day, by playwrights including Tennessee Williams, Samuel Beckett, Bernard Pomerance, Susan Sontag, Sarah Kane, Brian Friel, Margaret Edson, Paul Vogel, Joe Penhall, Mike Lew, Nina Raine, Jack Thorne, Kaite O'Reilly and Suzan-Lori Parks.
Course description We will examine plays dealing with a range of disabilities and illnesses (including deafness, blindness, psychosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS, polio, cerebral palsy, dissociation, depression, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, and multiple sclerosis). We'll explore how playwrights, directors and actors have staged these conditions (in forms including the theatrical monologue, the family drama, the freak show realism, absurdism, metatheatre, satire, comedy, immersive and participatory theatre, post-dramatic theatre, and contemporary adaptation).

We'll also engage with key debates around the representation of illness and disability, including the medical, social and embodied models of disability, and criticism of 'cripping up'. You will be encouraged to consider practical issues of staging and performance, as well as thinking theoretically about questions of representation, style and politics. You will learn to closely analyse theatre playtexts, as well as developing the skills required to analyse specific productions and performances from existing evidence.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: ( Literary Studies 1A (ENLI08020) AND Literary Studies 1B (ENLI08021) AND Literary Studies 2A: English Literature in the World, 1380-1788 (ENLI08024) AND Literary Studies 2B: English Literature in the World, post-1789 (ENLI08025) OR Scottish Literature 2A (ENLI08022) AND Scottish Literature 2B (ENLI08023)) OR ( English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) OR Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) AND English Literature 2 (ENLI08003) OR Scottish Literature 2 (ENLI08004))
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements For students who took First Year courses prior to session 2021-22, a pass in English Literature 1 (ENLI08001) or Scottish Literature 1 (ENLI08016) is an acceptable equivalent
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2024/25, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Coursework Essay: one 2,000-word coursework essay. (30% of final mark)
Final Essay: one 3,000-word final assessment essay. (70% of final mark)
Feedback Students will receive oral feedback on their ALG tasks each week, and written feedback on their coursework and final essays. They will also be encouraged to come to office hours with specific questions and further feedback discussion.

Feedback on the mid-term and end-of-term essays will be provided within three weeks of submission deadline, in line with faculty policy.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. KNOWLEDGE AND UNDERSTANDING: recognise and discuss a range of modern and contemporary theatrical modes and genres, drawing on an understanding of the relevant terminology and conventions of the field; engage with some of the central theoretical and political debates about the classification of disability and illness, and its representation on the theatre stage.
  2. PRACTICE: APPLIED KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND UNDERSTANDING: analyse specific theatre productions and performances from existing secondary evidence and industry materials; research, plan and execute an independent written research project, using appropriate research methodologies and techniques of enquiry.
  3. COGNITIVE SKILLS: think critically and construct coherent arguments about the production of theatrical meaning and effect on the page and stage; identify and analyse issues of disability and/or illness cultural representation; critically analyse other scholarly and practitioner perspectives.
  4. COMMUNICATION: analyse dramatic texts using recognised methodologies of literary criticism and performance analysis to substantiate and illustrate those arguments, in formal scholarly writing
  5. AUTONOMY AND ACCOUNTABILITY: work to established deadlines.
Reading List

Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie (1944)

Samuel Beckett, Endgame (1957)

Bernard Pomerance, The Elephant Man (1977)

Susan Sontag, The Way We Live Now (1990)

Paula Vogel, The Baltimore Waltz (1992)

Brian Friel, Molly Sweeney (1994)

Margaret Edson, Wit (1995)

Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus (1996)

Sarah Kane, 4.48 Psychosis (2000)

Kaite O'Reilly, peeling (2002)

Joe Penhall, Blue/Orange (2000)

Anthony Neilson, The Wonderful World of Dissocia (2004)

Nina Raine, Tribes (2010)

Duncan Macmillan, Every Brilliant Thing (2013)

Jack Thorne, The Solid Life of Sugar Water (2015)

Mike Lew, Teenage Dick (2018)

Davis, Lennard J. Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body, Version, 1995.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body. New York University Press, 1997.

Gilman, Sander L. Disease and Representation: Images of Illness from Madness to AIDS, Cornell University Press, 1988.

Harpin, Anna. Madness, Art and Society: Beyond Illness. Routledge, 2018.

Harpin, Anna, and Juliet Foster, eds. Performance, Madness and Psychiatry: Isolated Acts. Palgrave, 2014

King, Kimball, and Tom Fahy, eds. Peering Behind the Curtain: Disability, Illness, and the Extraordinary Body in Contemporary Theatre. Routledge, 2002.

Kuppers, Petra. Theatre & Disability. Palgrave, 2017.

Sandahl, Carrie, and Philip Auslander, eds. Bodies in Commotion: Disability & Performance. University of Michigan Press, 2005

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Aesthetics. University of Michigan Press, 2010.

Siebers, Tobin. Disability Theory. University of Michigan Press, 2008.

Simpson, Hannah. Samuel Beckett and Disability Performance. Palgrave 2022.

Sontag, Susan. Illness as Metaphor & AIDS and its Metaphors, Penguin, 2009.

Tompkins, Joanne. Theatre's Heterotopias: Performance and the Cultural Politics of Space, Palgrave, 2014.

Venn, Jon. Madness in Contemporary British Theatre: Resistances and Representations. Palgrave 2021.


William Shakespeare, Richard III (1633)

Tennessee Williams, Suddenly Last Summer (1957)

Dore Schary, Sunrise at Campobello (1958)

Peter Nichols, A Day in the Death of Joe Egg (1967)

Peter Nichols, The National Health (1969)

Mark Medoff, Children of a Lesser God (1979)

Larry Kramer, The Normal Heart (1985)

David Greenspan, Jack (1987)

Tony Kushner, Angels in America (1991)

Caryl Churchill, The Skriker (1994)

Martin McDonagh, The Cripple of Inishmaan (1996)

Mike Kenny, Fittings: The Last Freak Show (1999)

Peter Wolf, Into the Mystic (2001)

Tracy Letts, August: Osage County (2008)

Douglas Maxwell, The Mother Ship (2008)

Nina Raine, Tiger Country (2011)

David Greig, The Monster in the Hall (2011)

Lucy Prebble, The Effect (2012)

debbie tucker green, nut (2013)

Ridiculusmus, The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland (2014)

Gary Owen, Iphigenia in Splott (2015)

Rob Drummond, Grain in the Blood (2016)

Kaite O'Reilly and Phillip Zarrilli, richard iii redux (2018)

Ben Weatherill, Jellyfish (2018)

Winsome Pinnock, Leave Taking (2018)

Matthew Lopez, The Inheritance (2018)

Alan Bennett, Allelujah! (2018)

Shahid Iqbal Khan, 10 Nights (2022)

Aragay, Mireia, Cristina Delgado-Garcia and Martin Middeke, eds. Affects in Twenty-First-Century British Theatre: Exploring Feeling on Page and Stage, Palgrave, 2021.

Davies, Helen. Neo-Victorian Freakery: The Cultural Afterlife of the Victorian Freak Show, Palgrave, 2015.

Davis, Lennard J., ed. The Disability Studies Reader, 5th edn. Routledge, 2019.

Garland-Thomson, Rosemarie. Extraordinary Bodies: Figuring Physical Disability in American Culture and Literature. Columbia University Press, 1997.

Herrington, Joan, ed. The Playwright's Muse. Routledge, 2011.

Kocchar-Lindgren, Kanta. Hearing Difference: The Third Ear in Experimental, Deaf and Multicultural Theater, Gallaudet University Press, 2006.

Pozorski, Aimée. AIDS-Trauma and Politics: American Literature and the Search for a Witness, Lexington Books, 2019

Quayson, Ato. Aesthetic Nervousness: Disability and the Crisis of Representation. Columbia University Press, 2007.

Row-Heyveld, Lindsey. Dissembling Disability in Early Modern English Drama, Palgrave, 2018.

Watson, Nick, Alan Roulstone, and Carol Thomas, eds. The Routledge Handbook of Disability Studies. Routledge, 2019.

Wrigley, Owen. The Politics of Deafness, Gallaudet University Press, 1991.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Students will be encouraged to think critically and with nuance about complex and challenging ideas, and to consider alternative perspectives through research and enquiry.

Students will develop their skills in close reading, in historical and cultural contextualisation, and in crafting and substantiating nuanced and coherent written arguments about literary and cultural texts. They will also gain more experience in verbally presenting and debating specialised material with their peers and other specialists.

Although working with guidance from the course lecturer, students will gain further experience of working in a self-motivated and independent fashion, and will be supported in seeking out further primary and secondary texts to develop their own areas of interest.
KeywordsTheatre,drama,performance,disability,disabled,illness,sickness,medicine,medical humanities
Course organiserDr Hannah Simpson
Course secretaryMrs Lina Gordyshevskaya
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