SEL3396 : Epic Fail (Inactive)

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Within the tragic drama of the twentieth century, the figure of the loser has been embodied in memorable characters such as Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman and Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire. Their failures are mirrored in the lives of the theatre-makers who created them which were characterised by financial and political strife; critical and artistic failure; alcoholism; and personal and professional rivalry. Considering not only playwrights with names which are well recognised -- such as Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams -- but also the less familiar directors, dramaturgs and literary agents who supported them, this module aims to re-evaluate the relationship between the concepts of success and failure in modern theatre.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module will explore a range of performance forms and play texts from the modern theatre. Primary texts may vary from year to year, however an indicative list of play scripts might include: Arthur Miller, Death of a Salesman (1949); Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947); Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, Inherit the Wind (1955); and Sophie Treadwell, Machinal (1929). The module will also consider a range of theatre-making forms, including the work of Susan Glaspell at the Provincetown Players (1915-1929).

In addition to analysis of play texts and performance forms, the module will focus upon the processes underpinning the creation of theatre: playwright development; dramaturgical research; rehearsal processes; and devising for performance. Critical reading may include extracts from works such as David M. Ball, False Starts: the Rhetoric of Failure and the Making of American Modernism, Scott A. Sandage, Born Losers: A History of Failure in America, and Don B. Wilmeth and Christopher Bigsby, eds., The Cambridge History of American Theatre.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture121:0012:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading120:0020:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching112:0022:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesFieldwork13:003:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyStudent-led group activity121:0012:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDrop-in/surgery12:002:00Advice and/or feedback on assessment
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1129:00129:00N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The first eleven weeks of the module involve a weekly lecture of one hour and a seminar of two hours. The seminars will include: student-led discussions and presentations; analysis of play scripts; analysis of secondary criticism; practical activities and/ or viewing of video extracts of performance where appropriate.

In week twelve, there will be a revision lecture and a two hour drop-in tutorial for students seeking advice and/ or feedback on assessment activities.

Assessment Methods

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

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Presentation101M15presentation of independent research
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay1A603000 words
Reflective log1M25documentation of independent research; description of presentation aims and objectives; reflection upon learning and feedback
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

These assessment forms provide students with an opportunity to demonstrate their understanding of the breadth and depth of topics covered in this module; they also evaluate the particular skills that are being developed.

The presentation and reflective log call for the presentation and analysis of independent research, contribution to group debate and discussion, and reflection upon learning.

The essay requires students to engage with one or two play texts covered in the module and to demonstrate awareness of the theatrical contexts and processes underpinning these. This written element of the module assessment also provides students with the opportunity to present the knowledge they have acquired through independent research and to apply the skills they have developed through seminar participation.

Reading Lists