TP6005 - Performance and the Politics of Fear

What will I learn on this module?

In this module you will engage in a research-led exploration of the place of performance (social and aesthetic) in relation to contemporary and plural contexts of the ‘politics of fear’. The precise focus and thematic direction of this exploration will be devised in line with staff expertise and interests. It considers how contemporary (western) social discourse (particularly as represented in the news media) is preoccupied with narratives of fear or anxiety: of the other, of terrorism, of the collapse of capitalism, of pandemics, of anti-social behaviour and violence, of the dumbing down of education standards, of the disintegration of community, of the rise of consumerism and ‘unthinking’ neoliberalism, for example. Meanwhile, the history of performance since Plato holds at its centre a complex and powerful anxiety about and mistrust of representation. Through recourse to critical theory, political and medical histories, psychoanalysis and philosophy you will investigate the philosophical, political and socio-cultural nature and social function of performance and representation as it relates to contemporary questions of fear, anxiety and ‘dis-ease’.

How will I learn on this module?

Relating to areas of staff research specialism, the module’s delivery models may vary depending to the tutor leading the work; however, in the main, the module will focus on tutor facilitated seminars, framed by student engagement with relevant research materials that might include play texts, journal articles, performance viewings (live or recorded), archival materials, online essays, blogs, podcasts etc. The module may also make use of field research (to see artworks in context or to museum exhibitions for instance), workshop activities, online tutorials and meetings, or short lectures. In all cases, tutors will support and guide you through the module by encouraging you to ask questions of each other, of the material before them and of the tutor. Discussion and debate are at the centre of the learning on the module, ensuring you develop critical thinking, reflection and communication skills across different media that will be vital to future employability and academic success.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

Student’s learning will be supported in a number of ways throughout the module. The sessions themselves are structured to be responsive and to adapt as the sessions unfold and develop, depending on the particular content and approach of the session. As a research focused module, staff will seek to engage you in discussion and debate throughout, posing questions and setting up small group tasks and activities to vary learning models. You will explore ideas with your tutors, who will ensure your affirm your understanding of the ideas and materials before them, setting the foundations for success in assessment and beyond the module. Regular formative feedback in response to individual contributions and group activities will be provided by tutors, ensuring you are able to measure and assess your progress on the module.

The module's assessments (a research presentation) will be talked through with you in detail in the sessions, and support will be offered in how to research, structure and successfully deliver this exciting piece of work.

Information and resources will be available to you on Blackboard and the 'Reading List' contains links to websites and online video material which can help you develop appropriate knowledge and understanding.

Written assessment feedback will be provided within 20 working days of summative assignment submission. Access to library facilities is available 24-7 all year round.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
? Develop a keen understanding of developments in contemporary performance practice and the possible social, political and cultural ‘function’ of performance as it relates to contemporary discourses around fear and anxiety.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
? Demonstrate the ability to communicate research and evaluate visual evidence to develop advanced confidence in the ability to analyse, critique and manipulate complex material.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
? Develop advanced personal research skills using personal initiative; to set personal objectives that are linked to a sense of challenge and extending boundaries and to identify and evaluate personal learning strategies that are self-critical as much as self-reflective

How will I be assessed?

In small groups, you will share short prepared responses to a case study or set topic featured in the module schedule at the start of sessions. The aim is to introduce a subject for the other students, which staff can then curate into an opening discussion. Feedback on understanding and clarity will be offered by staff and peers.

Performative Research Presentation (100%)

You will be assessed via an individual research presentation (c. 15 - 20 minutes) addressing a research area or question relevant to the concerns of the module. In this, you will be expected to evidence clear and sustained engagement with relevant research materials and making use of creative or performative means where they advance the argument of the work. That is, while critical enquiry and rigorous research will underpin the presentations, you will be encouraged to think creatively about the form their work takes.

(*You will be encouraged to develop your own question supported by and in discussion with the module tutor)





Module abstract

Narratives of fear have become nearly constant in the new millennium; indeed, ‘fear’ has become an urgent global preoccupation. On this module we will explore the place of performance in the ‘politics of fear’ to ask: why has fear become so prevalent and what can performance do in that context. You will consider how mass media is preoccupied with narratives of fear: of ‘the other’, of terrorism, of the collapse of capitalism, of pandemics, for example. Equally, you may consider why so many performers ‘suffer’ from stage fright and why being on stage is often panic-inducing. You will also consider the long history of anxiety about and mistrust of actors and performative representations. With reference to critical theory, political and medical histories, psychoanalysis and philosophy, you will investigate the nature and social function of performance as it relates to contemporary questions of fear, anxiety and ‘dis-ease’.

Course info

UCAS Code W405

Credits 20

Level of Study Undergraduate

Mode of Study 3 years Full Time or 4 years with a placement (sandwich)/study abroad

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Start September 2024 or September 2025

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing. 

Full time Courses are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but could include elements of online learning. Most courses run as planned and as promoted on our website and via our marketing materials, but if there are any substantial changes (as determined by the Competition and Markets Authority) to a course or there is the potential that course may be withdrawn, we will notify all affected applicants as soon as possible with advice and guidance regarding their options. It is also important to be aware that optional modules listed on course pages may be subject to change depending on uptake numbers each year.  

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with possible restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors if this is deemed necessary in future.


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