Department of Drama UG Module Directory (2023)


Culture, Power and Performance

Level 5 (15 credits)

This module examines the power relations of theatre and performance, focusing on how artists engage with the politics of representation and identity formation. The module builds on the introduction to the semiotics and histories of theatre from your first year, while developing your skills in performance analysis and research. Discussions and readings will draw from key academic and political debates, which could include queer theory, post-colonial studies, critical race theory, feminism, disability studies, Marxism, etc. Through study of a wide range of play texts and performance traditions, you will examine how formal and aesthetic innovations in theatre relate to the social and economic conditions from which they emerge.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

Preparation for this first class is very light. There is just one short required reading, the chapter "Art for Art's Sake" from Lola Olufemi's new book Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power. This chapter tackles a number of the module themes about power and art as they relate to race, class, gender and disability. The introductory lecture will review some of Olufemi's argument. There are also a couple secondary readings, which we recommend you read before or after class.


  • Lola Olufemi, "Art for Art's Sake," in Feminism, Interrupted: Disrupting Power (London: Pluto Press, 2020), 82-94.

Preparation Questions:

As you read the article from Olufemi, try to answer these questions:

  • Identify any moments when Olufemi talks about "power" or "politics." Is there a difference for her between the two?
  • Try to paraphrase (put into your own words) what Olufemi means by the following statement: "We do a disservice to the power of art and artistic creation when we assume that it is less important than political intervention, likewise we do ourselves a disservice when we assume that art alone can liberate us."
  • What does Olufemi think art can do? What purpose should art serve?

Recommended Reading:

  • bell hooks, ‘Performance practice as a site of opposition,’ in Lets Get it On: The politics of black performance (London: ICA, 1995), pp. 210-211.
  • Judith Butler, "Merely Cultural," New Left Review 227 (1998). Available online here.
  • Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Volume One (London: Penguin, 1990), pp. 92-8.
  • Nancy Fraser, "Rethinking Recognition," in Fortunes of Feminism (London: Verso, 2013), 107-110.

No additional costs are anticipated for this module.

Why take Culture, Power and Performance?
  • Core module for Drama single honours students
  • We explore how theatre and performance engages with urgent social and political ideas
Learning Context Seminar-based
Semester One
  1. Essay (1500 words), 40%
  2. Essay (2000 words), 60%
Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Nicholas Ridout