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The Grotesque in Contemporary British and Irish Drama

Class at Faculty of Arts |



1. (19 Feb) The Grotesque: An Introduction 26 Feb – no class

2. (4 Mar) Sarah Kane, Blasted

3. (11 Mar) Mark Ravenhill, Shopping and Fucking

4. (18 Mar) Philip Ridley, The Pitchfork Disney

5. (25 Mar) Philip Ridley, Mercury Fur

6. (1 Apr) Martin McDonagh, The Lieutenant of Inishmore 8 Apr – no class

7. (15 Apr) Enda Walsh, Penelope

8. (22 Apr) Mark O’Rowe, Terminus

9. (29 Apr) Tim Crouch, My Arm 6 May – no class (Rector’s Day)

10. (13 May) Tim Crouch, The Author


M.A. Special Programme: Irish Studies (elective), English Literature (elective).


An advanced course that explores different shapes of the grotesque in contemporary drama, with a particular focus on the interaction of the grotesque with politics and ethics. The course will address a variety of subsidiary issues, such as the representation of extreme violence in relation to the grotesque, the nature of laughter triggered by the grotesque, or indeed the importance of the interpretive context.

The theoretical background will be provided by the work of art historians and cultural critics from Wolfgang Kayser and Mikhail Bakhtin up to Frances Connelly, with a particular focus on the contrast between Wolfgang Kayser’s view of the grotesque as essentially bleak and hopeless, and Mikhail Bakhtin’s assertion of the grotesque as a radically liberating phenomenon. These perspectives will serve as a principal point of reference in detailed discussions of selected plays by some of the most challenging contemporary British and Irish dramatists.


Aragay, Mireia and Monforte, Enric (eds). Ethical Speculations in Contemporary British Theatre. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Bakhtin, Mikhail. Rabelais and His World (1965). Trans. Hélène Iswolsky. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984.

Connelly, Frances S. The Grotesque in Western Art and Culture. The Image at Play. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.*

Connelly, Frances S. (ed.). Modern Art and the Grotesque. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.*

Edwards, Justin D. and Graulund, Rune. Grotesque. London and New York: Routledge, 2013.

Harpham, Geoffrey Galt. On the Grotesque: Strategies of Contradiction in Art and Literature. 2nd ed. Aurora, CO: The Davies Group, 2006.

Chambers, Lilian and Jordan, Eamonn (eds). The Theatre of Martin McDonagh: A World of Savage Stories. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2006.

Jordan, Eamonn. Dissident Dramaturgies: Contemporary Irish Theatre. Dublin and Portland, OR: Irish Academic Press, 2010.

Kayser, Wolfgang. The Grotesque in Art and Literature (1957). Trans. Ulrich Weisstein. New York and Toronto: McGraw–Hill, 1966.*

Lonergan, Patrick. Theatre and Globalization: Irish Drama in the Celtic Tiger Era. Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

Middeke, Martin, Schnierer, Peter Paul and Sierz, Aleks (eds). The Methuen Drama Guide to Contemporary British Playwrights. London: Methuen, 2011.

Morash, Chris and Richards, Shaun. Mapping Irish Theatre: Theories of Space and Place. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013.

Pilný, Ondřej. The Grotesque in Contemporary Anglophone Drama. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.

Rancière, Jacques. The Emancipated Spectator (2008). Trans. Gregory Elliott. London and New York: Verso, 2011.

Rebellato, Dan. Modern British Playwriting: 2000–2009. Voices, Documents, New Interpretations. London: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Remshardt, Ralf E. Staging the Savage God: The Grotesque in Performance. Carbondale, Il.: Southern Illinois University Press, 2004.

Saunders, Graham. Love Me Or Kill Me: Sarah Kane and the Theatre of Extremes. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2002.

Sierz, Aleks. In-Yer-Face Theatre: British Drama Today. London: Faber, 2001.

Sierz, Aleks. Rewriting the Nation: British Theatre Today. London: Methuen, 2011.

Sierz, Aleks. Modern British Playwriting: The 1990s. Voices, Documents, New Interpretations. London: Methuen, 2012.

Wallace, Clare. Suspect Cultures: Narrative, Identity and Citation in 1990s New Drama. Prague: Litteraria Pragensia, 2006.

NB: Items marked with an asterisk (*) are available in full or in extracts via Moodle.

CREDIT REQUIREMENTS consist of 1. Regular attendance and active participation in debates (based on the assigned reading). A maximum of 2 unexplained absences is allowed. 2. Oral presentation of 20 min duration. 3. A final essay. Final essays for Credit (zápočet) should be 2500-3000 words. Students who wish to earn also an exam grade in the subject must submit an additional research paper of 4500-5000 words. The topic of any essay must be consulted with the course instructor in advance. Deadline for essays: 11 June 2020. Any resubmissions must be handed in by 7 September 2020. Essays must include full bibliographical references and footnotes for all works cited or paraphrased (in accordance with the MLA style). Students are advised not to use Internet sources in place of adequately researching texts available in print or in academic digital libraries. Plagiarism will not be tolerated and will result in a fail grade.