13 Introduction

Module 4 – The Art of Tragic Drama

Module Introduction


Many scholars trace the origins of the genre of drama to ritual tradition, whether in ancient Greece, China, India or African cultures. A history of theater course would offer a fascinating diversity of various traditions of classical and modern theater. This module focuses on the idea of tragedy and tragic drama through a discussion of one work of classical Greek tragedy and two modern one-act plays.

Notably, the creation of a theatrical work is collaborative. This is in marked contrast to the other two genres we have studied so far, fiction and poetry. Although there are no prohibitions against fiction or poetry being collaborative works (and there are examples of this), writing in these literary genres historically is a much more individualized creative process.

Because of the collaborative process in staging a play – or adapting a play written in a previous time – reading a dramatic text in print offers different imaginative challenges than reading a poem or a work of fiction. We might suggest that combining the skills of reading poetry and reading fiction prepares us rather well for studying drama. We still can rely on the active reading skills and the appreciation of cultural context when analyzing drama. Yet we will need to add an understanding of staging and performance .

Learning Outcomes

This module addresses the following Course Learning Outcomes listed in the Syllabus for this course:

  1. Demonstrate proficiency in critical thinking
  2. Demonstrate understanding of Global Sociocultural Responsibility
  3. Recognize the relationships between cultural expressions and their contexts
  4. Understand cultural expressions
  5. Interpret and evaluate cultural artifacts and/or their contexts for significance
  6. Understand basic literary elements of specific genres: short story, poetry, and drama
  7. Analyze and evaluate selected works of literature in classroom or online settings
  8. Analyze and evaluate both in class discussions (whether face-to-face or electronic) and in class writing, selected works of literature
  9. Demonstrate and understand how literature is relevant to their personal, social, and historical awareness 1

Module Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the student will be able to:

  • Recognize literary elements and formal structures of drama
  • Describe themes and major ideas of selected plays in historical context
  • Interpret selected plays for meaning and significance
  • Analyze drama in writing
  • Develop a full-length analysis of a specific play 1

Readings and Resources

Optional Further Reading

  • Poole, Adrian. Tragedy : A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.
  • Sands, Kathleen M. “Tragedy, Theology, and Feminism in the Time after Time.” New Literary History 35.1 (2004): 41–61.
  • Williams, Raymond. Modern Tragedy. London: Vintage Books, (1966) 2013.


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