Key texts of 19th and 20th century drama: Oscar Wilde, Arthur Miller, Brian Friel and Timberlake Wertenbaker

Course Dates: 26/09/22 - 12/12/22
Time: 14:45 - 16:45
Location: Keeley Street
This course will explore the concerns, styles and influences of four key dramatic texts from the late 19th and 20th centuries and how they reflect the times in which they were written. It includes The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde, Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel and Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker.
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Full fee £229.00 Senior fee £183.00 Concession £149.00

This course has now started

Course Code: HLT41

Started Mon, day, 26 Sep - 12 Dec '22

Duration: 11 sessions (over 12 weeks)

Or call to enrol:020 7831 7831

Lines open Monday-Friday 12:00-18:00

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What is the course about?

This classroom-based course concerns the themes and styles of four plays. We will look at the dramatic structure, language and characterisation of the plays and assess how they work as performance texts - that is how a director, actor, set, sound and costume designer can combine and breathe life into a playtext and make it a powerful theatrical experience.

The social and political background to the plays will also be explored.

Jenny Stevens has taught English at both pre-university and degree level. A former
Head of English, she currently combines part-time teaching with academic writing and series editing for Methuen Modern Drama editions. She has an MA in Victorian Studies and a PhD in late-Victorian literature. Her publications include ‘Faith, Fiction and the Historical Jesus’ (2010) and three co-authored Arden Shakespeare guides for undergraduate readers.

What will we cover?

We will cover why these plays have ‘lasted’ - why they are significant.
We will explore the structure, dialogue and methods of characterisation of the plays and how they work on stage.
We will look at how they were received by audiences and critics when they were first performed.
You will be made aware of what the plays reveal about the society in which they were written.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

-Discuss a range of plays in an informed and confident manner
-Identify key trends and concerns of the periods in which each play was written
-Understand different ways in which characters are created
-Assess the ways different writers work with genres (e.g. comedy, tragedy, satire)
-Make an imaginative attempt to translate the literary into the performance text.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

You will need an enthusiasm for reading and discussing plays and an interest in hearing the views of others.
You need to be willing to do some preparatory work before the classes to ensure class discussion has depth and focus.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

There will be a mixture of tutor presentation, small and whole group discussion. We will read key scenes from each play aloud in class and try to capture as far as possible the plays tensions,drama or humour. You will only take part in readings if you wish to.

You will be directed to productions of the plays on DVD,YouTube or streaming services where available and be encouraged to respond critically to such performances when back in class.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

You will need to borrow or buy the following:

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
Death of A Salesman by Arthur Miller
Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel
Our Country’s Good by Timberlake Wertenbaker

The tutor will supply any additional materials.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

In January '23 Classic Drama (HLT24) will cover three classic plays and will be taught by the same tutor. Please also see our range of Literature/Drama courses under History, Culture and Writing on our website at

We’re sorry. We don’t have a bio ready for the tutor of this class at the moment, but we’re working on it! Watch this space.