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Undergraduate English Courses

359:410 Literature and Performance Theory

01  MW7  CAC  14213  DIAMOND  SC-116

In this seminar we will consider multiple approaches to the important concept and practice of performance.  By one definition performance is “the actual execution of an action,” as opposed to the script that precedes it or the critical judgment that follows it. By another definition performance is not about the “now” of an action, but about behavior that is “twice-behaved”—that is behavior that is repeated, and because repeated, is always being revised. Performance asks us to consider the creative, constructed, and collaborative forms of human interaction, as well as the times and spaces of such interactions. Under the rubric of performance, we think about the shifting nature of human identity, whether racial, sexual, cultural, or national.  Finally, performance is the name of a methodology. It is a particular lens through which to view aesthetic objects (poems, dances, dramas, novels, songs) or non-aesthetic objects (parades, demonstrations, sports, lectures, etc.). Through a performance lens we see embodied practices in concrete (or digital) sites and we think about embodied ways of knowing, pleasure/boredom, duration, materials, power structures, spectatorship, and risk. Performance always contains an element of risk.  Our lively readings will be, of necessity, interdisciplinary, drawn from anthropology, ethnography, theater, and cultural studies (Turner, Butler, Schechner, Case, Roach, Artaud, Brecht, among others) as well as from dramatic literature/performance that have incited performance theory (Shakespeare, Brecht,  Benmussa, Baraka, Moraga, Split Britches, among others).  

Students will 1) participate in a weekly sakai discussion site,  2) produce one short paper and a long paper/project, and 3) give one presentation, with bibliography, on a week’s readings.

Together, and with the help of the Enrichment Office, we will have the pleasure of attending a performance in New York City or closer to home.