Offstage London

Level 6 (15 credits)

This module explores the political and artistic aims and effects of non-theatrical performance in the twentieth century and contemporary urban environment. It explores how the city is sometimes conceived as a dystopian site of potentially enormous social oppression. And it examines everyday, artistic and activist performative responses to this potential subjection, responses which imagine the city as, instead, a utopian site of personal and social liberation. We contextualise and historicise our analysis through studying various theoretical analyses of urban experience (e.g. Baudelaire, Benjamin, Debord, Lefebvre) as well as a variety of artistic practices (e.g. everyday interventions, activism, public art). Throughout the module, we work to map the ideas and practices we encounter, many originally grounded in Paris, in our own experiences of London. The module concludes by imagining what performance might do next to contest the particular challenges of living in the city now and to explore and exploit its opportunities. Please note that in addition to the weekly 2-hour seminar there will be regular 3-hour field-trips and/or screenings.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

There is no advance preparation for this module.

Readings will be provided by the tutor and/or available from the QMUL Library and/or Senate House Library (to which you have access). 

You might be requested to see a performance (depending on what's on). Ticket costs (if there are any) should not exceed £25. 

You will do research and fieldwork off campus in London for this module. This may incur travel costs (like the fare for two return journeys by Transport for London services to central London/Zone 1). 

Why take
Offstage London

  • You learn about topical issues in urban life, the city's opportunities and inequalities, and how performance and art respond to and intervene in it.
  • One assignment is an essay; the other is very open, so you can make a creative response to the module and/or a critical response. Former students have made embroideries, subjective maps, and games.
  • You learn about a lot of different artists and art practices.
Learning Context Seminar-based
Semester One
  1. Atlas (2000 words), 50%
  2. Essay (2000 words), 50%
Mode of reassessment Standard