Cool Britannia? British drama in the period 1956 – 2008

Course title: Cool Britannia? British drama in the period 1956 – 2008
Instructor: Dr. Tihana Klepač, Assoc. Prof.

ECTS credits: 6
Language: English
Status: elective
Enrolment requirements: enrolment in 4th or 6th semester
Course requirements: continuous assessment; regular attendance, work in class, 1 written assignment, mid-term and end-term exam.
Course description: An overview of British drama beginning with the premiere of Osborne’s Look Back in Anger and ending with Pinter’s death on the Christmas Eve of 2008, discussed in the light of its contribution to the formulation of the British national identity. Analyzing the works of the authors listed below we shall explore the way in which British dramatists through three generations of the angry young men (the original in the 1950s and 1960s, the second one in the 1990s as expressed in the in-yer-face theatre, and the third one expressed through the Verbatim theatre) relate to the imperial British metanarration, and attempt to point to the fissures in the national identity so created.
Objectives: Recognize the role of British drama in the formulation of the perceived role of Great Britain in the post-imperialist period.
Course requirements: The final grade is based on continuous assessment which includes regular attendance, preparation for and participation in class, writing small assignments, timely submission of the final paper, and obligatory sitting for midterm and endterm exam. Students must meet all requirements of continuous assessment.

Week by week schedule:
Idea that literature constitutes discourses which have an order-giving and order-finding function in the contemporary world (Marion Halligan, J. Hillis Miller); incredulity toward metanarratives (Lyotard, White, Foucault)

Power and identity (Hall, Bhabha, Anderson, Duara, Balibar, Spivak); relations of power and the right to representation (Foucault); end of metanarrations and the relativisation of Truth (Baudrillard)

Historical background of the Angry Young Men, In-Yer-Face and Verbatim theatre: Britain in the latter 20th century and at the beginning of the 21st century; influence of Samuel Beckett and the theatre of the absurd 

Angry Young Men; John Osborne: Look Back in Anger, 1956; Clash of class cultures with the dominant theme of helplessness and anger: discovery that the idealised Britain the war generation sacrificed itself for is fake, and that the national identity so formulated is a betrayal; excerpts from the 1976 TV adaptation of the play, «BBC Play of the Month» program

Harold Pinter: The Dumb Waiter, 1960; individual vs. collective identity as expressed through the political metaphor, the Big Brother theme; Excerpts from the interview with Michael Billington and Karel Reisz

Edward Bond: Saved, 1965; cultural poverty and frustration of young people on the dole, censorship

Tom Stoppard: Rozenkrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead, 1966; individual vs. collective identity in a society in which traditional values are overturned, postmodernist play of words, reinscription of the British canon; excerpts from the film Rozenkrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead (1990)

Mid-term exam

Overseas colonisation as treated in British drama (Kidd, Tylor, Kipling)
Timberlake Wertenbaker: Our Country’s Good
In-Yer-Face Theatre; Sarah Kane: Blasted, 1995; tragedy of history; comparison of its reception with that of Look Back in Anger and Saved
Mark Ravenhill: Shopping and Fucking, 1996; consumerism erasing all moral codes; excerpts from the play performed in &TD theatre, Zagreb, 7th May 2004

Verbatim theatre: tribunal plays; Richard Norton – Tylor: Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry; Postcolonial Ireland

Verbatim theatre: politicians on stage; David Hare: Stuff Happens; British foreign policy, power plays, representation and self-representation

Final discussion.

End-term exam.


John Osborne: Look Back in Anger
Harold Pinter: The Dumb Waiter
Edward Bond: Saved
Tom Stoppard: Rozenkrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead
Timberlake Wertenbaker: Our Country’s Good
Mark Ravenhill: Shopping and Fucking
Sarah Kane: Blasted
David Hare: Stuff Happens
Richard Norton – Tylor: Bloody Sunday: Scenes from the Saville Inquiry

Christopher Innes: Modern British Drama: The Twentieth Century, Cambridge University Press, 2002
– Simon Trussler: The Cambridge Illustrated History of British Theatre, Cambridge University Press, 2000.

Due to unavailability of reference material, all relevant texts are contained in the Cool Britannia? Reader 2010.