Drama and Performance Studies

Drama and Performance Studies

358:315 Shakespeare: The Later Plays

01   09273  LEVAO  MW  2:50-4:10

The course is dedicated to eight major plays written across the second half of Shakespeare’s career. The brilliance and complexity of his earlier, or Elizabethan, works deepened in the Jacobean period, maintaining much of his ingenuity and exuberance while darkening their portrayal of psychological and ethical conflict. We will read a remarkable series of powerful tragedies together with some quirky but ambitious comedies—the so-called “problem comedies” and “late romances.” The order of our readings will be roughly chronological: Measure for Measure, Othello, King Lear, Macbeth, Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, The Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. Background in Shakespeare’s earlier works is not expected or required.
Format is on-line lecture with time left for live questioning and discussion.

Grading is based on: three examinations, including two midterms (with an optional paper in place of the second midterm for those who earn a B+ or better on the first); a three-hour final; and regular attendance, with occasional quizzes if necessary.

358:335 Nineteenth Century Theater and Drama

01  09278   BUCKLEY   MW  2:50-4:10

In this course we’ll survey the rich and varied theatre and drama of the nineteenth century, a period during which the stage was transformed first into a modern, popular institution and then into a radical countercultural art.  We’ll explore the development of several of the century’s major new forms and modes, including melodrama, realist and naturalist drama, and the theater of the early avant-garde, and look at their relations to social and political change, their articulation of shifting ideas of the self, and their expression of life in the modern world. Along the way, we’ll encounter some of the greatest, most popular, and most radical plays ever written, including several that remain essential reading today. Authors may include Pixérécourt, Büchner, Boucicault, Ibsen, Strindberg, Chekhov, Robins, Wedekind, and Maeterlinck.


358:372 Black Theater and Drama

01  09285  KERNAN  MW 6:40-8:00 PM

In the Spring of 1998 at Dartmouth College, a plethora of African American theater’s most distinguished scholars and practitioners participated in the National Black Theatre Summit “On Golden Pond.” Chief among their objectives was to grapple with three questions that surrounded the African American stage from its inaugural moments. Does African American theater have a defining aesthetic? And, if so, what are its tenets and how can we account for them? After several days of conversation and debate, The Committee on Aesthetics, Standards, and Practices drafted “The Aesthetics Declaration.” The declaration not only provided a sixteen-point list of aesthetic principles unique to Black theatre in the United States, but also served, and continues to serve, as a programmatic manifesto for “authentic” Black plays.

This course provides a broad survey of canonical African American plays and playwrights that shine light on the manifesto’s critical achievements and pitfalls, and offers a panorama of African American theatrical production spanning from (1850 to 2002). Issues addressed will include: the place of “plantation performances” in the development of minstrelsy and its mimetic inversions, the central role played by the pulpit (or African American Christianity) in determining the function of performance before and after Civil War, the manifestation of so-called “African retentions” in Black theater, the reworking of these retentions by playwrights associated with the Black Arts Movement, and the various manners in which African American theater has ritualized theatrical spaces to preserve and create African-American identity and its cultural values, affinities, and affiliations throughout the course of its existence, from its inaugural beginnings to its most recent productions. We will read works by William Wells Brown, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry, James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange, and August Wilson. Evaluation will be based on active and engaged participation, short reading quizzes, a midterm, and a final paper.


359:410 Seminar: History and Theories of Melodrama

01   09324    BUCKLEY   MW 2:50-4:10 PM

History and Theories of Melodrama

This course will offer an introduction to the history and theory of melodrama, the modern world’s most distinctive and popular dramatic genre, from 1800 to now. The course will include plays, films, television, and new media drama from Europe, the Americas, and Asia. We’ll begin by looking at melodrama’s hybrid origins and rapid emergence in Europe and the United States after the French Revolution, and exploring early attempts to understand and explain this peculiar stage genre’s explosive rise. We’ll then survey its growth, expansion, and diversification as a style and as a mode in the nineteenth century, and engage with modern efforts to recognize and understand its cultural role and meaning as a central poetry of that age. In the second half of the course, we’ll follow melodrama’s migration to film, and look at critical efforts to evaluate and assess its profound impact on 20th-century cultural and political history. And to finish, we’ll launch our own investigation into melodrama’s place and function in global television and new media drama, journalism, political programming, and gaming, and become acquainted with contemporary efforts to theorize its increasingly pervasive influence on 21st-century life.