Module Details

TH341-6-FY-CO: European Naturalism And After

Year: 2017/18
Department: Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: No

Supervisor: Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein
Teaching Staff: Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein
Contact details: LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

This module covers some of the major figures in European drama from Henrik Ibsen in the 1880s to Samuel Beckett in the 1950s, exploring how the tradition of "naturalist" theatre developed, and was subsequently challenged and overturned. The coursework is both practical and theoretical, with each text examined in seminars and in workshops during the Autumn and Spring terms.

In the Autumn term, the focus is on the naturalist tradition (looking at plays by Ibsen, Chekhov, and Strindberg, and also by the Anglo-Irish writers, Shaw and O'Casey). Naturalism is not presented as a fixed movement, but as a variety of innovatory and even contradictory approaches to drama, through which some recurrent preoccupations nevertheless emerge: for example, the importance of class and gender, the interior domestic scene, the family secret, the futility of bourgeois life, the pursuit of self-liberation, the enigmatic nature of human motivation.

In the Spring term, the emphasis is on plays where the dominance of "naturalist" assumptions has been called into question, or repudiated (ranging from the later work of Strindberg to Pirandello, Brecht and Beckett). We will pay attention to the importance of non- or anti-naturalist categories within theatre writing, e.g. "expressionism," the "estrangement effect" and "absurdism." But the course will also consider the pressures of new themes and changing ideas of performance which lead writers to depart from the "naturalist" model. Just as the first term's work will emphasise the modernity of naturalism in its own time, so the second term's work will emphasise the new realities (psychological, political and philosophical) that underlie the emergence of non-naturalist drama.

The practical assessment rehearsals for this module take place over a weekend in early March.

See ORB for complete list

Learning and Teaching Methods

This module will be taught by alternate seminars and practical workshops.


100 per cent Coursework Mark


Two essays (25% each), practical assignment (45%), participation (5%)

Other information

The practical assessment for this course is in Week 24. Students must keep the previous weekend free for intensive rehearsal with a professional theatre director.


  • Ibsen - Hedda Gabler
  • Chekov - The Seagull
  • Strindberg - Miss Julie
  • Shaw - Heartbreak House
  • Sean O'Casey - Juno and the Paycock
  • Wedekind - Lulu
  • Pirandello - Six Characters in Search of an Author
  • Brecht - Man is Man
  • Jarry - Ubu Roi
  • Beckett - Endgame
  • ed. Christopher Innes - A Sourcebook on Naturalist Theatre
  • See ORB for updates

Further information

External Examiner Information

  • Name: Dr Tony Fisher
    Academic Role: Reader in Theatre and Philosophy