Fall 2023 Undergraduate English Courses

358:356 Early Twentieth Century Theater and Drama

01   CAC     MTH1   08183      JOHNSON     SC-202

This course explores just some of the richly varied and experimental innovations of the stage in the early twentieth century. We will examine how dramatists responded to the radical historical shifts of the period, including global wars, economic depression and labor unrest, the development of new media and technology, as well as the shifting social and cultural status of women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ individuals. Additionally, we will ask questions like: What new techniques and methods are being deployed on stage to make meaning? How are acting techniques changing, and why? What is the relationship between written drama and live performance within the theatre space? What is the status of language in these plays? How do these performances respond to historical crises both past and present?

Our class will cover a wide array of drama, from the most realistic portrayals of everyday life to the more abstract and expressionist performances of the early avant-garde. Dramatists likely to appear on the syllabus include Henrik Ibsen, Oscar Wilde, Georgia Douglas Johnson, Susan Glaspell, Eugene O’Neill, Marita Bonner, Sophie Treadwell, Antonin Artaud, and Bertolt Brecht, amongst others. Beyond reading their plays, we will also reflect critically about what it means to practice theatre history as scholars, as readers, and as a twenty-first century audience. Which texts/authors are usually assigned in courses on “modern drama” (and which are not)? Which of these plays have been adapted and performed continuously (and which have not)? How does the canon of “modern drama” influence the way we think and talk about modernism and this period more largely? Whose stories are being told on stage and off? How? Why?