English and Theatre Studies
What will I study?
Your course structure
The Bachelor of Arts requires the successful completion of 24 subjects (300-points), including at least one major. Most students study eight subjects each year (usually four subjects in each semester) for three years full-time, or the part-time equivalent.
Most Arts majors require 100 points of study (usually eight subjects) for attainment. This means out of your 300-point program, you have the opportunity to achieve two majors in your course. You will also complete breadth studies and other complimentary Arts subjects.
Completing your major
If you are taking English and Theatre Studies as a major, you must complete:
- One level 1 elective subject
- One Arts Foundation subject
- 37.5 points (usually three subjects) of level 2 elective subjects
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 3 elective subjects
- Compulsory Capstone subject ENGL30002 Critical Debates
If you are taking English and Theatre Studies as a minor, you must complete:
- One level 1 elective Subject
- One Arts Foundation subject
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 2 elective subjects
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 3 elective subjects
Breadth is a unique feature of the Melbourne Model. It gives you the chance to explore subjects outside of arts, developing new perspectives and learning to collaborate with others who have different strengths and interests — just as you will in your future career.
Some of our students use breadth to explore creative interests or topics they have always been curious about. Others used breadth to improve their career prospects by complementing their major with a language, communication skills or business expertise.
Jack Cao is currently studying a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in English and Theatre Studies.
Many of the insights I have gained through studying English and Theatre Studies are ethical and political. Serious engagement with radical literary thought has made me re-examine my entire value system.
Fiction is not a form of escapism, as it is sometimes perceived in popular culture. Rather, it is interesting for precisely the opposite reason: it unveils the unconscious desires of people. When I want to understand a society, I turn to the art that it produces: it tells us what contemporary metrics of ‘standard of living’ cannot – how does it relate to its history and what does it want the future to look like?
Some of my heroes are artists, philosophers and critical theorists. Some of the stuff I’ve read in my course is truly jaw-dropping but it is basically incomprehensible for the most of the population. It would be nice to share some of that thought and aesthetic abstraction with everyone in an accessible form for a broader audience.
I got guaranteed entry into the JD and I initially saw studying the BA as a means to an end. Now, I have really grown to love literature – it is no longer a means to an end but an end in itself. I feel extremely lucky to wake up every morning with unshakeable belief that literature is what I want to pursue in life.
Explore this major
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this major.
Arts Foundation subjects
- Identity12.5 pts
Who we are and what we do is all tangled up in our identity. This subject considers how identities are constructed and maintained through mediated processes of self and other. The subject investigates the myriad demands and devices that figure in constructing our senses of self and other (including language, leisure, beliefs and embodied practices). By exploring identity in diverse contexts, across time and place, the subject maps varying conceptions of self and other and how these conceptions are constructed and maintained. A key focus is on how these mediated conceptions of self and other are translated into material practices of inclusion, exclusion, discrimination, violence and criminalisation.
- Language12.5 pts
Language plays a central role in the central disciplinary areas in the humanities and social sciences. This subject gives students tools for thinking about language in a range of disciplines, including linguistics, history, sociology, politics, literary studies, anthropology, language studies, psychology and psychoanalytic theory. It shows how language can be analysed as a system, but also how language features centrally in politcal and social contexts: for example, in the processing of the claims of asylum seekers, in developing views of ethnicity, race and nation, and in colonialism; and in the construction of gendered and sexual identity. The role of language in the psyche, and the process of acquisition of languages in children and in adults, are also important topics. Knowing how to think about language, and familiarity with the main thinkers who have discussed language in a range of humanities and social science disciplines, provide an indispensable basis for study in any area of the Arts degree.
- Power12.5 pts
The idea of power is a way to grasp the character of social relations. Investigating power can tell us about who is in control and who may benefit from such arrangements. Power can be a zero-sum game of domination. It can also be about people acting together to enact freedom. This subject examines the diverse and subtle ways power may be exercised. It considers how power operates in different domains such as markets, political systems and other social contexts. It also examines how power may be moderated by such things as regulation and human rights. A key aim is to explore how differing perspectives portray power relations and how issues of power distribution may be characterised and addressed.
- Reason12.5 pts
Reason, many believe, is what makes us human. Until recently, most scientists and philosophers agreed that the ability to use the mind to analyse and interpret the world is something intrinsic to the nature of our species. Reason has a long and extraordinary history. We will explore a number of inter-related themes: the nature of reason from Ancient Greece to our contemporary world; the ever shifting relationship between reason and faith; reason's place in the development of scientific experimentation and thinking; shifting perspectives about the uses of Reason and, finally, how reason relates to theories of the mind, exploring the tensions between reason, the passions and the will.
Reason will take you on a journey from Plato's cave to the neuro-scientists' lab. We will visit revolutions in science, thinking and politics. We will explore the impact of some of the great philosophers of history, including Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Bentham, Coleridge, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault and many more besides. By the end of this subject you will have a deep understanding of the importance of the idea of reason to human history and philosophy. You might, even, be able to answer the question: 'does reason exist?'
Reason is an Arts Foundation Subject and we will argue that understanding the history and philosophy of reason provides great insights into many aspects of the humanities from political philosophy to understanding history. We will, of course, be paying particular attention to the foundational skills that will help you successfully complete your Arts major: particularly critical thinking and argument development.
- First Peoples in a Global Context12.5 pts
This subject will provide students with an introduction to the complexity, challenges and richness of Australian Indigenous life and cultures. Drawing on a wide range of diverse and dynamic guest lecturers, this subject gives students an opportunity to encounter Australian Indigenous knowledges, histories and experiences through interdisciplinary perspectives. Across three thematic blocks - Indigenous Knowledges, Social and Political Contexts and Representation/Self-Representation - this subject engages contemporary cultural and intellectual debate. Social and political contexts will be considered through engagement with specific issues and a focus on Indigenous cultural forms, which may include literature, music, fine arts, museum exhibitions and performance, will allow students to consider self-representation as a means by which to disrupt and expand perceptions of Aboriginality.
- Representation12.5 pts
Humans grapple with representations of themselves and their contexts. They also like to imagine other possible worlds. We use words, language, images, sounds and movement to construct narratives and stories, large and small, about the trivial and the profound, the past and the future. These representations can help us to understand worlds but they can also create worlds for us. This subject explores how different genres such as speech, writing, translation, film, theatre and art generate representations of social life, imagination and the human condition. A key aim of the subject is to develop a critical appreciation of how language, images and embodied gestures are used to construct empowering and disempowering discourses.
- Modern and Contemporary Literature12.5 pts
This subject explores the thematic and formal innovations of modern and contemporary literature in English. Beginning with Anglophone modernism, it introduces students to key texts from the twentieth and twenty-first century across a number of genres: poetry, drama, the novel, the short story, memoir. Modern writers struggle with representation, aesthetics and experience in an era of rapid social change. They think about cultural identity and cultural value, social norms and expectations, freedom and the law; and they work through the question of what it means to be modern in relation both to events in the past and the promises of the future. Students will be encouraged to read these texts closely and situate them in relation to their cultural, political and historical contexts. The subject will also introduce students to influential developments in literary criticism and critical theory.
- Literature and Performance12.5 pts
Between the early modern period and the end of the nineteenth century, literature and performance developed in a dynamic, innovative relationship. The inventiveness of Renaissance drama went hand in hand with an explosion in print culture. Later periods saw the emergence of the novel and radical changes in poetic and theatrical form as writers and performers participated in far-reaching social, political and technological transformations. Drawing on printed texts, archival materials and performance documentation, this subject introduces students to the range of critical skills required for the study of literature and theatre: close reading and an understanding of literary form; the analysis of narrative, theme and character; the interpretation of performance. It does so with reference to some of the most significant global developments of the period: colonialism, revolution, and changing conceptions of the self. The result is a significant insight into how and why literature and performance in English look and sound the way they do today.
- 12.5 pts
This subject maps the intertwined (and sometimes antagonistic) trajectories of Romanticism and early Feminism, as they emerge in Britain in the wake of the American and French Revolutions. Drawing on prose, poetry and drama from this period (including texts by Byron, Blake, Bronte, Hays, Radcliffe, Robinson, Mary Shelley, P. B. Shelley and Wordsworth), it studies the construction of modern notions of literature, culture, sexuality, emancipation and revolution. In so doing, the subject brings into dialogue late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century philosophies of imagination and reason, accounts of the artist as Satan/Prometheus and Sappho, and myths of the lover as Don Juan and femme fatale. Students completing this subject should have a firm understanding of the literary, philosophical and cultural foundations of Romanticism and early Feminism, movements that have played key roles in the construction of the modern world.
- 12.5 pts
This subject examines modernism, the movement in literature and other arts that lasted from roughly 1890 to 1950. Rather than trying to survey every major modernist writer, we will emphasize a number of significant figures and movements. Course readings will include novels, short fiction, essays, poetry, plays, and manifestos by writers such as James Joyce (on whose Ulysses we will spend two weeks), August Strindberg, W.B. Yeats, Gertrude Stein, Djuna Barnes, Aimé Césaire, and Jean Genet. In addition to working across genres, our course, like modernism, will work across national literatures. Students will learn about modernist movements and contexts such as dada, futurism, surrealism, symbolism, expressionism, theatre of the absurd, the African-American cultural revolution known as the Harlem Renaissance, the francophone négritude movement, and the queer enclaves of Paris’s Left Bank and New York City’s Greenwich Village.
- 12.5 pts
Reading a poem involves nothing more than reading the words in front of you in the order in which they appear. Which means that if you can read, you can read poetry. So why take this subject? The answer requires understanding the word “reading” in a particular sense: as a noun rather than as a verb; not just as something you do, but also as something you create, as in “a reading of a poem.” This subject is designed for students who want to learn how to be better readers in this specialised sense of people who read poems in order to write about them. It takes a step-by-step approach to poetic interpretation, investigating theories and methods of reading alongside poems and poetic practices from ancient Greece and Rome to medieval and early modern Europe through to the present day. Students will be trained in the art of creative reading: they will read some of the best poems ever written, and learn how to invent things to say about them that are not just original and coherent but even true.
- 12.5 pts
This subject is for students across the university interested in understanding and enjoying theatre, an ancient art form that enjoys continuing popularity in many modern societies, including Australia. Drawing on a range of local and international examples from mainstream and experimental performance styles, we examine what is distinctive about the theatre experience, and what it can tell us about the place and times we live in. Students new to theatre should gain some insight into why it remains such a vital art form, as well as a firm grounding in theatre appreciation that will serve them well long after the subject is over. More experienced theatre-goers will find the subject’s approach to the fundamentals of the form a refreshing and provocative basis for deeper understanding and further study. In order to achieve these goals, the subject is divided into three parts. Part One identifies theatre’s unique qualities. Part Two explores how to analyse them. Part Three considers theatricality in mass culture. Lectures and tutorial discussions will draw on plays, critical writings and performance recordings, while also making the most of Melbourne’s own vibrant theatre scene.
- 12.5 pts
The sense of national literature formed quite soon in colonial Australia, which saw a remarkable level of literary activity across a range of genres. This subject looks at what a national literature means, and how it makes itself significant to the nation and beyond. It will think about colonialism and colonial writing in Australia, modes of Australian social realism, the emergence of an Australian modernism, ways of representing region, suburb and city, postcolonialism in Australia, 'multicultural' writing, and Indigenous literature. The focus is on the novel, short stories, poetry and genres such as romance and the Gothic.
- 12.5 pts
In this subject, students study a selection of major American literary texts from the nineteenth century. They learn about the original historical contexts in which the texts were written and read, and they are introduced to some of the key contemporary critical debates about these texts. Topics explored include the novel and Puritan culture, the Gothic undercurrents of American writing, white and black writing on slavery and emancipation, literary representations of the frontier, the civil war, American masculinity and the ‘New Woman’. The subject will also examine the texts in relation to Romanticism, Naturalism and Realism. Texts studied include novels, short stories, poems, and captivity and Slave narratives.
- 12.5 pts
This subject is a study of the major developments in 20th and 21st century theatre and drama within the cultural and historical context of aesthetic modernism and modernity. It starts with the anti-realist manifestos of Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud, and the theatrical innovations of Samuel Beckett, to consider the key intellectual and artistic upheavals of modern theatre and drama. The subject then turns to the impact of contemporary dramatists from the social realism of Shelagh Delaney and the political force of Caryl Churchill, to the gay fantasia of Tony Kushner, and the experiential theatre of Sarah Kane. The subject concludes with a section on 21st century advances in theatre that engage with virtual reality, global war and social satire.
- 12.5 pts
This subject examines domestic realist fiction as a genre and cultural institution, from Jane Austen’s early nineteenth century country-house novel to the contemporary graphic novel. It provides an introduction to narratology, the critical framework for the study of narrative fiction. Considering the theory of the novel that emerged with its practice, we ask: how has the genre been transformed within the fictions themselves and through this theory and critical reception? Key topics include: the family romance and its drama of insiders and outsiders; courtship, marriage and property plots; psychological interiority; and the symbolic lives of domestic interiors. Traditionally associated with the eighteenth-century “rise” of the novel that consecrated the bourgeois marriage plot and the “omniscient” narrator, realist fiction is now the site of queer re-imaginings of intimacy and the family; critical questioning of realism’s long association with objectivity and reportage; enquiry into the theology-pathology of the detail; and a new emphasis on nonnarrative or affective features. Harnessing the tension between realist enchantment and ordinariness, we examine realism’s transfiguration of the commonplace. We also examine the conjugal imperative of the marriage plot and modes of un-conjugality. In these ways, we consider realism and its enchantments as well as its discontents; realism’s rise and fall and transformation through what Fredric Jameson refers to as “the tide of affect” that sweeps over the late nineteenth-century novel; and the futures-past of a genre that increasingly powers domesticity with the strange and unfamiliar.
- 12.5 pts
This subject investigates the adaptation of Shakespeare’s drama from page to stage and beyond. It will introduce Shakespeare in historical and contemporary eras, in western and non-western sites of criticism and performance, including avant-garde and postmodern contexts for Shakespeare and Shakespearean adaptation in film and television. The subject will examine Shakespeare’s canon and key literary perspectives, including discussion of Shakespeare’s plays in relation to issues of cultural politics and power.
- 12.5 pts
This subject explores the way stories are passed through time, genre, place, and media by focusing on the art of adaptation. The practice of adaptation raises basic questions: what is literature, what is an adaptation, what is a medium? We will pursue these questions by studying adaptations from theatre to screen, from novels to videogames. We will consider the function of the adaptation industry within a global media environment, and we will examine the way adaptations, both canonical and contemporary, generate new meanings, open up new audiences and pose new problems for literary and cultural criticism.
- Global Literature and Postcolonialism12.5 pts
In this subject, students learn how colonisation, decolonisation and large-scale migration have shaped literary traditions from the late nineteenth century to the present, including the canon of English Literature, and how writers from different parts of world have responded to the challenges wrought by globalisation and new forms of imperialism. They also learn why some works become global in terms of their readerships and their circulation and why others remain tied to nations and/or regions, and what is gained and lost when literary works go out into the wider world, or are read in translation.
- Decadent Literature12.5 pts
This subject examines decadence as a textual, historical, sexual and cultural formation, across a range of literary texts of the 19th and early 20th centuries. A predominantly masculine mode of radical aestheticism, manifesting symptoms of cultural crisis and informed by anxieties about class, gender and sexuality, decadence elaborated such key figures of modernity as the dandy, femme fatale, fetishist and aesthete. Students will be introduced to European and British varieties of literary decadence and aestheticism; art for art's sake theories of aesthetic production; relations between lifestyle, aestheticism and commodity culture; and emergent discourses of degeneration and sexology. The subject asks students to consider how decadent aestheticism was shaped by regulatory categories of taste and vulgarity, and by cultural practices of tastemaking, lifestyling and the aestheticisation of sexuality. Students will also consider the relationship between sexual dissidence and social and cultural distinction as produced in the representative examples of decadent literature studied.
- Performance and the World12.5 pts
This subject is a study of performance in its many modalities around the world. It brings together the areas of theatrical performance in traditional theatre venues, avant-garde and experimental performance in non-traditional spaces, dance both traditional and contemporary, and a range of comparative cultural performances that may include global activism and protest, sporting events, festivals and spectacles. Students will examine the impact of globalisation on performance practice and the effects of digital access to performances from around the world. They will also consider the role of the audience and spectatorship in performance reception and interpretation and develop an understanding of how meaning is negotiated and contested. Examples will be drawn from published texts, audio-visual material, and, where appropriate, live performance events.
- Aboriginal Writing12.5 pts
This subject studies Aboriginal fiction, poetry and drama, as well as life stories and criticism, focusing on questions of reading positions (particularly for non-Aboriginal students) and representation. It pays particular attention to the diversity of Aboriginal writing in terms of form, content, voice and place and examines the manner in which the reception of Aboriginal texts has been conditioned by political and economic factors. On completion of this subject students should understand the problematics of Aboriginal writing in the context of postcolonial Australia, and its relation to everyday life.
- Popular Fiction12.5 pts
This subject takes popular fiction as a specific field of cultural production. Students will analyse various definitive features of that field: popular fiction's relations to "literature", genre and identity, gender and sexuality, the role of the author profile, cinematic and TV adaptations, readerships and fan interests, and processing venues. The subject is built around a number of genres: sensation fiction, detective fiction, science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance, pornography, the thriller, and fan fiction. On completion of the subject students should be familiar with some important genres of popular fiction, and some representative examples of each genre and have a developed sense of the role of popular fiction in the broader field of cultural production.
- Gothic Fictions12.5 pts
This subject offers an introduction to the contexts, form, and enduring cultural power of Gothic fiction in modernity. It examines the formal conventions of Gothic Fictions in relation to the social, cultural and political contexts in which it first appeared in the late 18th century, while also mapping the ways in which the genre is reworked in the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries. The subject connects changing historical structures of patriarchal and paternal authority to the aesthetics of horror and terror; investigates links between modern notions of individuality and conceptions of monstrosity; and explores the power of literary fiction to evoke virtual worlds more expansive than the everyday.
- Romancing the Medieval12.5 pts
This subject develops two main threads. It introduces students to one of the main genres of medieval literature, the romance, with a special focus on the representation of love, sex, and desire in the Middle Ages, and especially the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Malory and the author of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It also examines the phenomenon of ‘romancing’ medieval culture in the various traditions and genres of modern medievalism; especially in medievalist fiction and film (both historical and fantasy). Some of the medieval texts will be read in Middle English; others in modern translation. No prior experience in medieval literature is assumed.
- Literature, Ecology, Catastrophe12.5 pts
The Humanities have always been interested in Nature and the non-human or ‘other’, and this has gathered momentum with our increasing awareness of the planet’s vulnerability and our responsibility for averting environmental disaster. The term ‘ecocriticism’ was applied in the mid-1990s to the study of literature and the environment; since then, ecological approaches to critique have rapidly expanded into other areas, encompassing ‘dark ecology’, ‘ecological materialism’, ecofeminist and queer ecological perspectives. This subject covers Romantic conceptions of Nature, evolution, science and species, the ‘wilderness’, human-animal relations, new environmentalisms, utopias, Indigeneity, and narratives about extinction, apocalypse and the posthuman.
- Irish Literature12.5 pts
For a small country, Ireland has a remarkable literary tradition. Students will examine some of the most distinguished and innovative Irish literature in English since the eighteenth century. They will attend to how literary texts respond to key social, political, and historical issues: including the Act of Union and the struggle for independence, colonialism and postcolonialism, gender, class and religious relations, the cultural revival and counter-revival, and the Irish ‘Troubles’, the Catholic Church. Authors may include Jonathan Swift, Eibhlín Dhubh Ní Chonaill (Evelyn O’Connell), Maria Edgeworth, James Clarence Mangan, W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney and others. While Irish, these writers are also responsive to British and European political and intellectual developments. This subject will bring together the national and international dimensions of their work, asking what it means to conceptualise and debate a national literature. The subject examines a range of genres, including fiction, autobiography, drama, poetry and the essay. It will produce an understanding of the Irish literary tradition in an international context and develop capacity to reflect on the relationship between literature, politics and culture.
- Global Theatre History12.5 pts
Global theatre history represents a rich source of ideas about performance, cultural difference and historical change. This subject aims to engage with the material culture of theatre history by examining theatre objects that produce the effects of illusion and dramatic excitement. With a focus on trans-historical and transcultural exchange, key examples might include Greek masks and costumes, Renaissance stage machinery, Japanese theatre, Indonesian shadow puppetry, or indigenous body markings. It will require students to engage in original research with cultural collections, theatre companies and online materials while developing a critical narrative about what constitutes a global theatre history.
- Critical Debates12.5 pts
This subject will proceed through close examinations of a series of debates that continue to influence literary studies today. The debates have been chosen for both their centrality and their diversity, for their historical force as for their abiding contemporary significance, for their dense particularities as for their global import. The situations, conditions, agents, arguments, concepts and consequences of the debates will be examined in detail. Key figures examined may include Jacques Derrida, Jurgen Habermas, Pierre Bourdieu, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, Alain Badiou, Jacques Rancire, among others. The particular case-studies will also serve to illuminate such general headings as Literature and Science, Literature and History, Literature and Politics, Literature and Philosophy, Literature and Society, Literature and Sexuality, Literature and Postcolonialism etc.