Module code: THE3032

Module Overview

We might argue that contemporary (western) social discourse (particularly as represented in the news media) is preoccupied with narratives of fear or anxiety: of the other, of terrorism, of the collapse of capitalism, of anti-social behaviour and violence, of the dumbing down of education standards, of the disintegration of community, of the rise of consumerism and ‘unthinking’ neoliberalism, for example. Meanwhile, the history of performance since Plato holds at its centre a complex and powerful anxiety about and mistrust of representation. Through recourse to critical theory, political and medical histories, psychoanalysis and philosophy students will investigate the philosophical, political and socio-cultural nature and social function of performance and representation as it relates to contemporary questions of fear, anxiety and ‘dis-ease’.

Module provider

Guildford School of Acting

Module Leader


Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 6

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Overall student workload

Independent Learning Hours: 130

Seminar Hours: 20

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content:

Students will meet every week for a 2-hour seminar-workshop. In addition to this students will be required to attend weekly film screenings or live performances (c. 3hrs per week), which may include 'reading group' debates with pre-set questions. The taught sessions may comprise presentations, discussions, small-group research tasks and workshop activities. Students will receive weekly readings (including: critical theory, theatre and performance studies, plays, and journalistic writing) that will form the basis of the weekly classes. Classes may take place in a variety of learning environments both on and off campus (indicatively: seminar rooms, studios, art centres/galleries, museums, theatre buildings, libraries). Students will also be required to engage with a number of theatre and performance events and to undertake self-led research activity.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Oral exam or presentation 20 minute individual presentation 100

Alternative Assessment

Summative assessment alternative: 3000 word essay

Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate

  • awareness and understanding of current debates in contemporary culture as it relates to

  • discourses concerned with the politics of fear and anxiety

  • analytical skills and critical thinking

  • ability to design and realise own research projects

  • confidence and ability in presenting and structuring ideas coherently and articulately


Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of:

  • 20 minute individual research presentation (as part of a Student Conference


Research questions will be designed in conversation with the module tutor and presentations will be delivered in a mini-conference during the Term 3 assessment period.

Although assessed individually, students will be put into small ‘panels’ as appropriate to their research areas and encouraged to work dialogically with one another to prepare for the conference.

While critical enquiry and rigorous research will underpin the presentations, students will be encouraged to think creatively about the form their work takes.

Formative Assesssment


Formative assessment – 500 word abstract for presentation


In-class formative tasks will receive oral feedback while the written formative assessment will receive feedback via 1:1 tutorials (and written feedback upon request).

Summative assessments will receive written feedback with optional follow-up tutorials.

Module aims

  • • investigate the cultural, ideological and socio-political ‘function’ of contemporary performance within western late-capitalism.
  • • interrogate the power of representation and implications of theatre and performance events that attend to what might be thought of as a contemporary culture of ‘dis-ease’, as well as the value of intellectual work of such representations.
  • analyse examples of social and aesthetic performance through critical and conceptual frameworks (for example: mimesis, theories of ethics and trauma, feminism, media and political theory and poststructuralist philosophy) to explore questions about contemporary geo-politics.
  • • develop a broad understanding of ‘performance’ through analysis of (indicatively):
    - verbatim theatre alongside the social performances they represent;
    - police tactics and surveillance as performance;
    - terrorism and plays that attend to it;
    - political activism;
    - 'culture jamming';
    - news and social media performances (from politicians’ speeches to trolling to news broadcasts);
    - live art and body practices;
    - medical performances;
    - immersive theatre.
  • • equip students with core skills in interpretation and analysis of plural forms of performance and help them to interrogate the interrelationship between politics, ideology, aesthetics and representation. In short, the students on this module will consider exactly how and why theatre and performance matters in the contemporary moment.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 • Develop a keen understanding of developments in contemporary performance practice and the possible social, political and cultural ‘function’ of performance as it relates to contemporary discourses around fear and anxiety. CK
002 • Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of relevant critical theories and their dynamic relationship to aesthetic practices. CKT
003 • Demonstrate the ability to apply a wide range of library and IT skills in detailed independent research. CPT
004 • Demonstrate the ability to contribute and communicate research to small group, in-class tasks/presentations, to evaluate visual evidence and to develop advanced confidence in the ability to analyse, critique and manipulate complex material. CKPT
005 • Demonstrate the ability to engage critically and analytically from different conceptual perspectives, to explore theoretical concerns through creative practice, and vice versa, and to synthesise findings in creative and written tasks. The ability to interpret research into creative practice and vice versa. CKPT
006 • Develop advanced personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives that are linked to a sense of challenge and extending boundaries and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies that are self critical as much as self reflective CKPT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to foster: a high level of critical thinking and reflection; analytical skills; evaluative skills; detailed knowledge of the module’s subject areas and their socio-political context; and an ability to articulate clearly one’s own critical perspectives, as well as representing the critical perspectives of others.  


Indicative learning and teaching methods include: short form lectures, seminars, debates, small group research tasks, workshops, and field work (20 hours over 10 weeks). Curated engagement with cultural products, such as films, performances, exhibitions, online art practices (20 hours over 10 weeks), framed by tutor set contextualisation/questions. Reading groups (10 hours over 10 weeks) in which students discuss weekly readings framed by tutor set questions.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list
Upon accessing the reading list, please search for the module using the module code: THE3032

Other information

Under the three term structure that commences from academic year 2019/0 – this module’s delivery falls in Semester 2 due to the teaching occurring in Teaching Block 3.

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2020/1 academic year.