20 Credits AUTUMN



Aims/Description: The period between the Restoration of Charles II and the death of Queen Anne, witnessed an astonishing development of theatrical practice and culture; the professional Restoration stage, unlike its Renaissance predecessor, used actresses rather than cross-dressed boys to play female parts and the introduction of moveable scenery to these theatres brought with it different styles of acting, plotting and realism. On this module, we will consider how this new kind of theatre enabled the emergence of two key Restoration theatrical types, the rake and the courtesan. We will analyse what these new roles might tell us about changing attitudes towards sex - as leisure activity, moral behaviour, easy (or hard) work - in the later seventeenth century. A key question we'll be considering, too, is the degree to which the theatricalisation of sex (or sex talk) might be thought to be political in a period still haunted by the period of civil-war and Cromwellian interregnum. Was Restoration drama, sexually adventurous at every turn, as decadent and morally bankrupt as many outraged contemporaries thought? Was it really as politically and socially conservative as some modern day commentators suggest? Or was the Restoration propensity to talk sex on stage emblematic of the most revolutionary of cultural shifts, heralding the advent of core Enlightenment values such as equality, privacy and individual freedom? Did Restoration theatre, in other words, help make sex modern? In order to answer such questions we will scrutinise the relationships between sex, ethics and politics in drama by a wide range of playwrights (including Aphra Behn, Margaret Cavendish, William Congreve, John Dryden, George Etherege, George Farquhar, Nathaniel Lee, Thomas Otway, Thomas Shadwell and Nahum Tate).

Staff Contact: NEVITT MARCUS A
Teaching Methods: Seminars, Independent Study
Assessment: Course work

Information on the department responsible for this unit (English Literature):

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Teaching methods and assessment displayed on this page are indicative for 2021-22. Students will be informed by the academic department of any changes made necessary by the ongoing pandemic.

Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK