Faculty of Arts


Drama and the Mind


This course examines modern British and Irish dramatic texts using theoretical frames that explore the human mind and body such as psychoanalysis and neuroscience. Topics include ideas of loss, memory, trauma, sexuality, power, identity, hatred, violence, guilt and emotion. This course also seeks to study why theatre presents an exemplary location to explore the relationship between the mind and the body.

The first six weeks focus on applying Freudian and Kleinian theories of subject formation to dramatic texts, with particular focus on Oedipal theory, on theories of the Superego and on Klein’s theory of artistic creation. The final six weeks investigate the appropriation of myth, the rewriting of history, the re-inventing of national identity and the recreation of memory and of traumatic events. Sexual politics and gender identity will be addressed using theoretical work of Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva. The final week studies a recent theory of acting and a play that uses the insights of cognitive neuroscience. Alongside seminar discussions, practical seminars will examine character psychology in relation to physical environment and movement.

Aims and Objectives

By the end of the module you will be expected to have:

  • Become familiar with the work of a number of dramatists writing for British and Irish theatre since the 1890s
  • Knowledge of psychoanalytic theories by Freud, Klein, Kristeva and Butler
  • Learnt to apply psychoanalytic theories to dramatic texts
  • Investigated ways in which British and Irish dramatic writing has responded to changing notions of national identity and to shifting perspectives on race and gender
  • Explored a number of dramatic theories, with particular attention to conditions of performance
  • Potentially identified a topic for further research and critical investigation



Availability 2021

Not offered in 2021; planned for 2022


Coordinator(s) Dr Rina Kim



You need to purchase Course Reader for theories at the UBS

Primary Texts

Sophocles, Oedipus the King (see the Files folder - it's out of print, and we need this particular version)

JM Synge, The Playboy of the Western World^

Joe Orton, Entertaining Mr Sloane (V)

Terry Johnson, Hysteria*

Caryl Churchill, Blue Heart and A Number in Plays: 4 (London: Nick Hern Books, 2008)

Samuel Beckett, Eh Joe & Film (V), Not I (V) in Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 1994)

Happy Days, Footfalls and Rockaby (V) in Collected Shorter Plays of Samuel Beckett (London: Faber and Faber, 1994)

WB Yeats, Cathleen ni Houlihan ^ and Purgatory ^

Marina Carr, Portia Coughlan and By the Bog of Cats ^

Sarah Kane, Blasted* and Cleansed in Complete Plays (London: Methuen, 2001)

Gurpreet Bhatti, Bezhti

Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and F***ing *

Lucy Prebble, The Effect (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, 2012)


in Modern and Contemporary Irish Drama, 2nd edition, ed. by John P. Harrington (WW Norton & Company, 2008)

* in Modern Drama: Plays of the 80s and 90s (Methuen Drama, 2001)


DRAMA 708: 30.0 points

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