EL5008 - Tragedy

What will I learn on this module?

What was or is tragedy? When and why did tragic drama begin to be written and performed? How have later writers of tragedy built on or surpassed early forms of tragedy? What did or does tragedy tell us about the world we live in? This module addresses these questions, with a survey of tragic drama from the classical past, through the early modern period, to the twentieth century. You will learn to contextualise each tragedy in relation to the conflicts and strains of the period in which it was made and consumed, while also thinking about the relations between writing, gender, religion, and politics, issues of literary influence, and the function of art in times of crisis, past and present.

Building on your work correlating Shakespearean tragedy and modern drama at Level 4 (Titus Andronicus and Blasted), and prefiguring your extended writing work for the dissertation and on drama-based modules such as Marlowe in Context at Level 6, this module will develop your understanding of the dramatic genre of tragedy. This will involve looking at tragedy’s earliest forms, the early modern revival and revision of such forms, and modern reworkings of the genre and its concerns.

How will I learn on this module?

1 x weekly 1.5-hour lecture and workshop
1 x weekly 1.5-hour seminar

This module will be delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars. Each week, a 1.5-hour lecture and workshop will establish the critical and contextual framework for the text or texts under discussion, a framework which will be both reinforced and problematised in a 1.5-hour seminar. The seminar will provide you with the opportunity to explore the texts discursively through small-group exercises, presentations, and debate.

In addition to learning during contact hours with the module tutor, you will be expected to undertake both directed and independent learning. Directed learning generally will take the form of preparation for seminars where you will be expected to contribute to discussion. Informal presentations will be used as well as group work to facilitate student engagement.

Independent learning generally will take the form of further reading and investigation, the consolidation of seminar notes, and revision/preparation for the assessment of the module.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Lectures, seminars and tasks for these will develop your academic skills as you engage with primary, secondary, theoretical and contextual materials to allow you to attain the module learning outcomes, and, more importantly perhaps, to enjoy reading and thinking about tragic drama in context. The module handbook provides details of lectures, seminars, reading lists and assessment criteria; lecture PowerPoint slides are made available on the e-learning portal. The module tutor will be available in lectures and seminars, as well as in office hours and on email/phone, to discuss any queries or concerns you have about how to excel on the module. Feedback in seminars and on formative work will serve as ‘feed forward’, giving guidance on how to improve. You also have a designated Guidance Tutor throughout your programme. The academic side of their role includes:
• monitoring your ongoing academic progress
• helping you to develop self-reflection skills necessary for continuous academic development
• directing you to further available services which can help them with their academic skills (e.g. Library’s Skills Plus)
You will see your Guidance Tutor at least twice each semester to review your academic progress. The Guidance Booklet, which you receive at the start of your first year, includes structured materials designed to help you develop your self-reflection skills. These materials help you to learn how to best use the feedback you receive on your assignments, how to build on your strengths, and improve in the areas where you could perform better.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at: http://readinglists.northumbria.ac.uk
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team – http://library.northumbria.ac.uk/readinglists)

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1 a specialised knowledge of selected tragic plays and their contexts, and an enhanced understanding of how tragic drama can both express and challenge dominant ideologies;

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1 an ability to analyse tragic drama, paying attention to thematic concerns and formal features;
2 a capacity to select relevant primary and secondary materials and to deploy this evidence in discussing issues relevant to tragic drama;

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
1 an ability to use critical theories to interpret drama in its context and ours;
2 skills conforming to relevant standards of good academic conduct in the expression of an informed argument in written and oral forms through completing the various activities prescribed.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment is formative (practice, ungraded) and summative (final, graded). The mark you get for formative assessed work does not count towards your module grade but this should not make you think it is not important. It is extremely important and is designed to provide you with an opportunity to practise for the summative assessed work. (The mark you get for summative work does count towards your grade.) The feedback you receive from the formative assessment will help you understand your strengths and, more importantly, to identify areas you need to improve when undertaking the type of assessment you have for this module.
Formative (practice) assessment
1. 500-word plan for the Essay.
Doing this plan and receiving feedback on it will help you to:
• identify the question you intend to answer
• identify the texts you plan to use to answer the question
• provide some description of how you intend to answer the question
• offer some detail about how you will structure your response
• present some examples of secondary material you plan to use
• ask your tutor for advice about any specific areas of concern or query

This formative assessment will aim to ensure you organise your ideas and material for the assessed essay, by selecting relevant primary and secondary resources to help you answer the question they have chosen. Written feedback on this plan will be provided, as well as opportunities to meet the tutor for a one-to-one meeting. The rationale for this is to enable you to road-test ideas before committing yourself to an argument or position. This assessment addresses IPSA 1 and 2, PVA 1 and 2.

Summative (graded) Assessments
1. 4000-word Essay (100%)
For this task you will have to write an essay referring to at least three of the plays we have studied on the module in response to a set of questions. You can chose plays from all, two, or just one of the periods of tragic writing we cover on the module (Classical, Early Modern, Modern). Please bear in mind that there are advantages and disadvantages to offering an ‘interperiodic’ essay (one that covers, compares or contrasts plays from different periods). If you write about plays from different periods, you might be able to make original and engaging comments about the connections, changes, continuities and discontinuities, in the portrayal of particular identities (gender, for example), or literary devices, or the ways texts and contexts relate. However, perhaps writing across or between periods might make it difficult to provide adequate contextualisation about the content, production and consumption of particular tragedies, a difficulty avoided by focussing on only one period. What you decide to do is up to you, but you are encouraged speak to your tutors about what you plan to do (and do the plan itself!). There is a clear correlation between students speaking to their tutors about their assessments and students doing well in their assessments.

For this module, in addition to the set questions, you also have the opportunity to devise your own question, in discussion with your tutors (by email or in person, before you submit the plan). Again, there may be advantages and disadvantages to this. A really strong, self-designed question will allow you to excel at showing your expertise and enthusiasm, and will be very good practice for working out how to design a question for your dissertation. However, a weak question that allows only a limited response may limit your success.

The aim of this 4000-word essay is to give you the opportunity to get to grips with the depth and range of writing about or of tragedy, both creative and critical, and the diverse contexts, theoretical positions and concepts relevant to these tragedies, while expressing your arguments in a format with which you should now be familiar and that conforms to high standards of academic conduct. This assessment tests your skills in written expression, research, close textual analysis, referencing, and contextualisation. It also helps you develop your expertise in structuring arguments in long pieces of written work, which is vital preparation for your dissertation or project in your third year.

Feedback will be provided using the Departmental template and comments on the script. This assessment addresses KU 1, IPSA 2, and PVA 1 and 2.





Module abstract

Please find details of this module in the other sections provided.

Course info

UCAS Code Q320

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years full-time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Humanities

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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