• Offered by School of Literature, Languages and Linguistics
  • ANU College ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
  • Course subject English
  • Areas of interest Classics and Ancient History , Drama, English, Literature, Film
  • Academic career UGRD
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Co-taught Course

Is comedy just for laughs? Does it have a serious purpose? Is humour time-bound? This course will take the long view of dramatic comedy, exploring ways in which it is catalysed by, and speaks to, its immediate contexts. The entertainment revolution offered by Shakespeare's public playhouse will provide the touchstone for a wide-ranging investigation of forms of dramatic comedy that have been influenced by it. We will explore dramatic comedy's relationship with developing technologies of performance and with socio-political concerns such as state and individual authority,  class, and gender. Topics may include the 21st-century 'mockumentary', black comedy, slapstick, farce, Restoration comedy, Renaissance comedy, Sentimental comedy, romantic comedy and the roots of comedy in ancient Greek culture. In each instance you will learn to identify both common tricks and innovations that have constituted the evolution of this important but often over-looked cultural form.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

Upon successful completion of this course, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

  1. Identify formal continuities between early and recent examples of dramatic comedy
  2. Explain the conventions and technologies of performance relevant to comedy
  3. Integrate close analysis of a comedy text with research on how it interacts with its socio-political context
  4. Communicate analysis and research in an engaging way which either uses and/or illuminates specific elements of dramatic comedy

Indicative Assessment

Comparative scene analysis (1000 words) (20%) (LO1, LO4)

Notes on a scene (500 words) (10%) (LO2, LO3, LO4) and staging exercise (15 minutes/1500 words equiv.) (10%) (LO2, LO4)

Final Exam or optional Essay (2000 words) (50%) (LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4)

Class participation (10%) (LO1, LO2 and LO3)

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

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130 hours of total student learning time made up from:

a) 36 hours of contact: 12 hours of lectures and 24 hours of workshop and workshop-like activities.

b) 94 hours of independent student research, reading, writing and film-viewing.

Requisite and Incompatibility

To enrol in this course you must have completed or be completing 12 Units of English (ENGL) or Film (FILM) Courses. Alternatively you may gain permission of the Course Convener to enrol in this course. You are not able to enrol in this course if you have previously completed ENGL6117.

Preliminary Reading

Eric Weitz, the Cambridge Introduction to Comedy, Cambridge, CUP: 2009.

Eric Weitz, The Cambridge Introduction to Comedy, Cambridge, CUP: 2009.

Penny Gay, The Cambridge Introduction to Shakespeare's Comedies.

T.G.A. Nelson, Comedy : an introduction to comedy in literature, drama, and cinema, New York : Oxford University Press, 1990.

William Shakespeare, As You Like It.

William Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Oscar Wilde, A Woman of No Importance.

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times.

Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $3120
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4800
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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There are no current offerings for this course.

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