Dramatic Literature - with a Modernist Twist

Times Educational Supplement, March 27, 2015 | Go to article overview

Dramatic Literature - with a Modernist Twist


Teaching English through drama can be illuminating. In this A-level literature lesson, I wanted to facilitate independent learning.

We were studying an "in-your-face" play called 4.48 Psychosis by Sarah Kane (pictured, above right). The drama is brimming with erratic and powerful utterances. One could argue that her work is rooted in modernism, so I asked the class to research The Waste Land by T S Eliot (pictured, above left) and selected plays by Samuel Beckett, and to consider similarities in form and style. They also had to research critical reviews of Kane's play.

The students came to the session fully prepared, with each group ready to discuss a different extract from The Waste Land or one of Beckett's plays. The learners had to draw out links with 4.48 Psychosis in terms of form and structure.

Extended questioning was key to this session: "Who is speaking in this sequence and why?", "What is the voice saying here? …

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