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SEL3391 : Women on Trial: Gender, Power, and Performance in Shakespeare's England

  • Offered for Year: 2020/21
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Emma Whipday
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


This module explores performances of gender and power on the early modern stage, page, and street. On this drama-centred module, we will study professional theatre and 'closet drama', as well as street literature and court records. We focus on women as subjects, translators, and performers of drama. We will explore how gender and power are represented and negotiated across a range of performance spaces: theatres, law courts, marketplaces, scaffolds, taverns, and country houses.

Outline Of Syllabus

We will study up to six plays from the professional stage. Indicative examples are Measure for Measure, A Woman Killed with Kindness, and The Witch of Edmonton. We will also look at a number of closet dramas, such as The Tragedie of Iphigenia, and a range of other texts that imagine, prompt, or record some sort of performance. These may be popular ballads, news pamphlets, printed trial accounts, portraits, or court records.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion144:0044:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical33:009:00Film screenings
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading199:0099:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching82:0016:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops32:006:00Performance workshop
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Assessment drop in
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity121:0012:00Preparation for the group presentations and the 'early modern verbatim theatre' workshop.
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

Lectures present the module concepts and contexts and clarify and explain unfamiliar material. Students respond to these ideas and draw on their own reading in small-group seminar work and in peer-led study groups. The performance workshop offers a hands-on opportunity for students to experiment with the performance practices they have identified in their texts. The film screenings offer examples of how other directors and companies have staged and performed these texts.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Written exercise1M20750 word close-reading exercise
Essay1A702750 words; evaluative essay
Prof skill assessmnt1A10500 word log of participation and engagement
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Performance1MAs part of the module workshop
Oral Presentation1MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-module offers students a chance to focus on the text of the early modern sources; the essay offers an opportunity to conceptualise a wider argument which addresses the themes of the module. The group presentation gives students the opportunity to test ideas, and the group performance gives students the opportunity to develop performance-based skills that support textual interpretation. Participation and engagement assesses students’ involvement in the course, from participation in study groups and seminars to contributions to group presentations and online discussion groups.

Reading Lists