English and Theatre: Your Compulsory First-Year Modules
Upon arriving at Warwick many moons ago in September 2019, I had no idea what to expect from my compulsory modules. I did absolutely no reading in preparation, which in hindsight was probably a good thing, as I’m sure I would have overthought it! But three compulsory modules out of four is certainly a large chunk of your first-year experience, and going into them completely blind can be a little daunting.
Here, I’ve broken down each compulsory first-year module for the English and Theatre course, and highlighted my favourite texts or learning from each one. It goes without saying that this information is accurate to my first-year experience, but may change by the time you enrol!
British Theatre since 1939 (BT39)
This was absolutely my favourite out of the three compulsory modules. The module is only available to English and Theatre students in their first year, meaning it’s a fantastic way to meet other people on your course! This module really helped me mould my brain into the university way of learning. Most weeks require you to read two plays, which is quite a hefty chunk of text, but can certainly train your brain into a more time-effective method of reading. My seminars were 1.5 hours long, and pretty much consisted entirely of a guided discussion of the one or two plays we had read. This was also a fantastic way to get used to this style of lessons, which were closer to thoughtful debates than my English lessons at sixth form!
My top texts in this module were:
- The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter. An absolute masterclass in storytelling – I couldn’t believe that I had never read a Pinter play before this one!
- The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. Do many plays make me cry in cafes? Well, as it happens, yes– but that’s beside the point! The Pillowman is so brilliantly written that it felt like I read it in about 30 seconds, when it definitely took longer than that.*
- Fleabag by Phoebe Waller-Bridge. While this play and the TV show are not favourites of mine (controversial, I know!), the debates this inspired were top-quality.
(*from my brief research, I’m not sure McDonagh is on the BT39 reading list anymore. His plays are super readable, so I totally recommend them anyway!)
Theatre and Performance in Context (TAPIC)
This module is housed in the Theatre department, and really helped me rethink the way I viewed performance. This is compulsory to both first-year English and Theatre students and single-honours Theatre students, meaning it’s another great way to meet people you’ll be seeing a lot of over the course of your degree. For me, TAPIC was taught over the span of three hours – the first half of which was a lecture, and the second half of which split us into smaller seminar groups. Personally, I found the lectures the most useful part, as they gave me the theoretical and historical knowledge to create a foundation for other work. This module isn’t based in reading scripts, but instead focuses on performance theory, questions around what we consider theatre, and examples of seminal works in performance history.
My favourite topics were:
- Race and Ethnicity and Gender and Sexuality. These two seminars focused on understanding our identities as performances, and how these identities could be reflected back at us.
- Politics and Performance. In this session, we discussed the ways political speeches and bodies could be considered performative. I loved this topic so much that I took it as a module in second year, which I highly recommend!
Medieval to Renaissance English Literature (MedRen)
I won’t lie, this was not my favourite module I took in first year. I’m not someone who really took to reading in Middle English, but it was certainly a valuable experience in learning an unfamiliar topic! This module is based in English, and is compulsory to quite a few degrees, meaning you have the opportunity to meet students from all across the English department. For me, the module was taught across a one hour lecture, and then a one hour seminar. Although I didn’t necessarily enjoy all the reading, my seminar tutor certainly made my experience on this module more fun – thanks, Julian!
Some weeks I enjoyed in this module were:
- The Sonnets and Venus and Adonis by William Shakespeare. Can you tell I’m an English and Theatre student at heart? While I may not have loved all the authors on this module, I will take any opportunity to learn more about Shakespeare.
- Medieval Drama. While being a genuinely interesting form of theatre, this seminar was my favourite purely because we were asked to do practical work. Watching single-honours English students squirm at the thought of leaving their laptops was very entertaining! However, being asked to re-enact the play’s depiction of Jesus’ crucifixion with a group of near-strangers was one of the most bizarre and extraordinary activities of my university experience to date!
Feel free to message me for any further information! Want to learn about the optional modules available for English and Theatre students? Have a look at my next blog post: