Welcome to the Department of English at Rutgers University

Course No:  350:694
Index # -  19402

Distribution Requirement:  A5, B
Thursday - 1:10 p.m.   
MU 207

Dramatic Modernism, Performance, and the Common World

Elin Diamond  

Our working assumption is that 20th century drama has always been “interdisciplinary,” that is porous to art practices and social thinking that go back to the futurist and dadaist avant-gardes and that resurfaced with ferocity in the 1960s and beyond. In this seminar we’ll consider drama and performance through the anti-dualism of pragmatist philosopher John Dewey, whose “learning by doing” grew out of 1930s cultural practices. Dewey’s Art as Experience (1934) describes art-making as an experience of the body’s “integration in a common world” an idea that resonates in Hurston’s experimental folklore-based plays and in Susan Glaspell’s proto-ecofeminism. We’ll consider the Federal Theater Project’s ambition to invoke a common world as a means of resisting the privatizing of experience under capitalism. In the 1950s and 1960s, Dewey’s body-in-environment aesthetic philosophy inspired painter Allan Kaprow to theorize and curate his “happenings”—task-based, thing-oriented collaborations of “just doing” rather than gallery patrons just looking) We’ll connect Kaprow to his contemporary, the situationist Guy Debord, who theorized and practiced the dérive or drift through Paris, and we’ll look at feminist artists, including Carolee Schneemann and Valie Export, whose body art animated but also remembered the fascist history of her native Vienna. We will discuss the spectator response to Kara Walker’s 50-foot high, sphinx-like “Subtlety,” her 2014 installation in the Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn. And, mingled with the above, we’ll study the plays of theater artists, including Caryl Churchill, Irene Fornes, Anne Washburn, and David Grieg, who have been called “interdisciplinary” because they incorporate movement, soundscapes, and extra-theatrical media into their drama. We’ll ask how and if such plays, and their spectators, enact the possibility of “integration in a common world.”  Our theory will be drawn from John Dewey, Walter Benjamin, Antonin Artaud, Allan Kaprow, Saskia Sassen, Jacques Rancière, Giorgio Agamben, Donna Haraway, and Jane Bennett. 

why english wide


 Undergraduate Students


Graduate Program in English


Statue of "Willie the Silent"