Tragedy and Theatre Writing

The details
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Colchester Campus
Full Year
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 27 June 2025
30 March 2022


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA P400 Film and Drama,
BA P401 Film and Drama (Including Year Abroad),
BA P402 Film and Drama (Including Placement Year),
BA P403 Film and Drama (Including Foundation Year),
BA WW80 Drama and Creative Writing,
BA WW81 Drama and Creative Writing (Including Foundation Year),
BA WW82 Drama and Creative Writing (including Placement Year),
BA WW83 Drama and Creative Writing (including Year Abroad)

Module description

'We are not looking for a new universal meaning of tragedy. We are looking for the structure of tragedy in our own culture.'

Raymond Williams, Modern Tragedy.

This module examines the idea of Tragedy in the theatre, tracing its development from classical Greek tragedy to the present day. The module concentrates on the structure of Tragedy and investigates ways in which it has developed over time and how it influences current ideas about contemporary plays.

The texts that have been chosen both acknowledge and question the influence of Aristotle's Poetics. The module explores the extent to which Aristotle's theories still articulate enduringly useful ideas about tragedy; and the extent to which they have been modified, altered, played with and rejected by playwrights over the ages. We ask whether there is an essential and timeless set of qualities that constitutes 'tragic drama', or whether notions of 'tragedy' are contingent on social and historical circumstances. We look at private and domestic tragedies, as well as public and political tragedies from different periods, examining the connection between the two.

The module investigates how playwrights have adapted tragic forms and structures to make theatre that explores suffering and catastrophe. Using Aristotle's Poetics as its starting-point, the Module also explores what the effect is on an audience member watching a tragic play.

Module content note: topics may include suicide/racism/sexual violence/violence Please contact the module supervisor if you have any questions.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

1. To equip students with the appropriate analytical skills to enable them to understand three aspects of the tragic form.

2. To examine in detail nine tragedies that range from Ancient Greek tragedies to contemporary tragedies.

3. To equip students with an understanding of Aristotle’s ideas about the ‘peripiteia’ and the ‘anagnorises’.

4. To equip students with an understanding of Aristotle’s ideas about ‘Hubris’ and ‘Hamartia’

Module learning outcomes

At the end of the module, students will:

1. Have developed a critical understanding of Aristotle’s ideas about the way a tragic plot can be constructed

2. Be able to understand and use the terms: anagnorises, peripiteia, hubris and hamartia appropriately

3. Be able to identify and critically evaluate three plays that do not conform to Aristotle’s ideas

4. Have developed a critical understanding and analysed the nine tragedies on the reading list.

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

Anticipated teaching delivery: Weekly 2-hour seminars We will offer a mixture of tailored online, digital, and campus-based teaching where it may be possible and as appropriate, along with personalised one-to-one consultation with academic staff.


  • Taylor, Don; Varakis, Angie; Sophocles. (2006) Antigone, London: Methuen Drama. vol. Methuen student editions
  • Eldridge, David; Vinterberg, Thomas; Hausen, Bo; Rukov Mogens. (2004) Thomas Vinterberg, Mogens Rukov and Bo hr. Hansen's Festen, London: Methuen.
  • Lavery, Bryony. (2002) Frozen, London: Faber and Faber.
  • Walton, J. Michael; McDonald, Marianne; Euripides. (2002) Medea, London: Methuen.
  • McLeish, Kenneth; Aristotle. (1999) Poetics, London: Nick Hern Books. vol. Dramatic contexts
  • Miller, Arthur. (2000) Death of a salesman: certain private conversations in two acts and a requiem, London: Penguin. vol. Penguin classics

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Formative assessment during class (week TBC)    0% 
Coursework   Autumn term essay    35% 
Coursework   Practical writing project (an original tragedy, or scenes from a tragedy, (20-30 mins duration) plus a critical commentary of 1,500 words)    60% 
Practical   Participation    5% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Jonathan Lichtenstein, email:
Professor Jonathan Lichtenstein
LiFTS General Office - email Telephone 01206 872626



External examiner

Dr Christina Papagiannouli
University of South Wales
Research Fellow
Available via Moodle
Of 1529 hours, 0 (0%) hours available to students:
1529 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.