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Module

SEL3435 : All the Feels: Theatre, Emotion and Spectatorship

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Helen Freshwater
  • Owning School: English Lit, Language & Linguistics
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semesters
Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0

Aims

How do we expect to respond when we watch a performance? How does theatre represent and embody emotional experience? What kinds of impact can performance have on our bodies, as well as our minds? This module explores these questions and many others as it reflects on theatre's capacity to generate 'all the feels'. It examines what we know about how performance communicates and provokes physical and emotional responses such as laughter, tears, fear, thrill and delight. It offers an overview of the representation of emotion and the crafting of affect in contemporary performance in order to provide opportunities to reflect on performance’s role and function in contemporary culture.

The module involves analysis of live and recorded performance as well as scripts, engaging with a number of productions and plays across a range of genres and forms. It places these ‘primary texts’ in dialogue with broader theoretical issues including the definition of affect and the ways in which theatrical methods of depicting emotion have changed over time. These theories provide a framework for viewing, reading and analysing a range of contemporary plays and performances that are explicitly designed to have a strong emotional and affective impact. They allow us to assess the role that convention and codification play in the staging and experience of emotion, as well as how collective audience experience can heighten or inflect the emotional and physical responses of spectators.

The module is designed to enable creative as well as critical explorations of these issues, and students are given the opportunity to select their final assessment submission from a range of critical and creative options.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module begins with a survey of relevant historical theories and concepts, which may include Aristotelian catharsis and early modern intromission theories, as well as discussion of recent studies (including, for example, the impact of entrainment upon audiences).

It draws upon the work of a wide range of current practitioners, critics and theorists, such as director Anne Bogart, theatre historian and actor Caroline Heim, and performance theorist and scholar Peta Tait.

Primary texts – or, more accurately, the performances being analysed – change from year to year according to local and national theatre programming. Tickets for in-person performance viewings are purchased and paid for by the School.

Topics likely to be raised include the significance of liveness and co-presence in performance and its relation to affective response; the theatrical codification of intimacy, vulnerability and the markers of ‘authentic’ emotion; the legacy of long held anti-theatrical anxieties about the ‘viral’ spread of performed behaviour to impressionable audiences; catharsis, community and the function of performance in the twentieth-century.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion601:0060:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesPractical12:002:00N/A
Guided Independent StudySkills practice13:003:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesWorkshops112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork64:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery11:001:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity91:009:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study701:0070:00N/A
Total200:00
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The first two thirds of module involve a weekly lecture of one hour and a workshop of two hours.

These two hour workshops will include student-led discussions and presentations; analysis of play scripts; analysis of secondary criticism; practical activities and/ or viewing of recorded extracts of performance where appropriate. This phase of the module will, where possible, involve around six fieldwork sessions - visits to view performances at local theatres and other venues - which will be discussed in lectures and workshops.

Between the lecture and the workshop each week students will participate in a one hour self-directed study group.

Lectures, drop-in tutorials and workshops during the final third of the module will be dedicated to the development and delivery of the final assessment on the module.

Assessment Methods

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

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Reflective log2M15The reflective log documents participation and engagement, such as contributions to study group presentations and peer review.
Portfolio2A85EITHER individual performance presentation and commentary OR script and commentary OR essay (3,000 words).
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Written exercise2MFinal assessment plan/description
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The mid-term formative written exercise will require students to set out their plans for the final piece of assessment, providing a framework for discussion and feedback.

The reflective log will describe students' engagement with and contribution to the module, and may include discussion of their participation in group work; independent identification and sharing of further relevant reading; peer review and/or in class discussion.

The end of term assessment involves a choice of three different modes of assessment.

Students can either:

1) offer a critically and theoretically informed analysis of the examples contemporary performance covered on the module in an academic essay,

2) present an individual performance presentation which engages with the issues raised on the module and offers a critically informed creative response to the forms of contemporary performance viewed on the module. This performance presentation will be accompanied by a critical reflective commentary that provides an opportunity for students to present the independent research leading to the presentation, to reflect upon their own learning, and indicate how their creative response may be subjected to critical and/or theoretical analysis.

3) write a short script for live performance which engages with the issues raised on the module and offers a critically informed creative response to the forms of contemporary performance viewed on the module. This will be accompanied by a critical reflective commentary that provides an opportunity for students to present the independent research undertaken during the script's development, to reflect upon their own learning, and indicate how their creative response may be subjected to critical and/or theoretical analysis.

Reading Lists

Timetable