Department of Drama UG Module Directory (2022)



Level 5 (15 credits)

Naturalism seems to be the theatre that all fashionable modern theatre people love to hate. This module aims to reconnect with the original dynamic energy of naturalist theatre, and to trace a century-long fascination with the art of making it look and feel real. We will look at new discoveries and explorations of nineteenth century science, and at radical moves in painting and literature, as a way of framing our exploration of naturalist drama itself. We will find out why it was so offensive to see a version of your own living room on stage and how theatre started to bring all the sordid realities of everyday life on stage. Seminars will involve extensive study of naturalist plays, from Ibsen and Strindberg, via Franz Xavier Kroetz to Richard Maxwell, film screenings and critical and historical texts that place the phenomenon of naturalism in historical and aesthetic context.

Preparing for this Module and Approximate Costs

You'll need to read the core play texts for each week. While you are welcome to source online versions of these plays (links provided on QMPlus), I would strongly encourage you to buy your own hardcopies where available. You are welcome to buy second-hand copies of any edition (though, in some cases, please make sure that it is the original version, not a contemporary adaptation!).

The core texts are:

  • Henrik Ibsen, A Doll's House (playtext)
  • Emile Zola, Therese Raquin (playtext - NOT novel. QMPlus link)
  • August Strindberg, Miss Julie
  • Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire (playtext )

Please make sure that you also complete the other Essential Reading and Viewings for each week (listed on QMPlus for each week and available in your module packs) – these will form the basis for our discussions in class and guide your critical thinking in preparation for your presentations and essays.

Why take Naturalism?

This module asks four key questions about naturalism onstage:

1.  What is the relationship between scientific naturalism in the work of Charles Darwin and others, and naturalist theatre?

2.  What is natural - or unnatural - about naturalism?

3.  What are the legacies of naturalism in contemporary theatre and performance?

4.  What are the primary criticisms of naturalism by feminist thinkers and others?

5.  This module introduces you to some of the key writers and practitioners of naturalism and investigates the very peculiar attributes of a theatre form that describes itself as 'natural'.  

Learning Context Seminar-based
Semester 1
  1. Presentation (5-7 min), 30%
  2. Essay (2500 words), 70%
Mode of reassessment Standard
Contact Maggie Inchley