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Fall 2013

Theatre Research and Bibliography (Professor Judith Milhous): This course will provide an overview of the profession and how one begins to join the conversation it represents. Classes will concern such matters as general research methodologies as demonstrated in current publications; approaches to historiography; the procedure for getting papers accepted for conferences and the benefits of participating therein; and a number of issues related to teaching. A constant theme will be the preparation and writing of research papers, conference papers, and papers for publication. Examples and strategies will be drawn from scholarship on a broad range of geographical and historical material. Factors that affect grades include: demonstration that the assigned readings have been done, via informed participation in class discussion and on an in-class exam, written on the scheduled exam date exam; weekly written exercises; and several class presentations, most of them connected to a final term paper. A basic text will be Wayne C. Booth, et al., The Craft of Research, third edition, which you may already know, but which we can all benefit from re-reading.
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Contextual and Intertextual Studies in Drama (Professor Marvin Carlson): This course will be concerned with texts drawn from world drama throughout recorded history, but in addition to placing emphasis upon structural analysis, we will also look at the social and cultural background of the texts and at how they relate to other texts thematically or structurally.  Each class will address approximately three plays (lengths vary), plus ancillary material, with substantial representation of both the generally accepted canon and of non-canonical works, including both pre- and post-1900 drama.  Paper requirement: one short paper (7-8 pages) at mid-term; one longer paper (10-15 pages) at the end of the term. Further specifics when class meets. Short-essay exam written in class time.
Mondays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in a Dramatic Genre: The American Musical (Professor David Savran) Until the twenty-first century, U.S. musical theatre had been ignored, marginalized, or cordoned off by most theatre scholars and musicologists. Because musicals represent the most category-defying theatrical form, they have been especially adept at arousing the critical disdain and anxiety linked historically to middlebrow culture. This course will be devoted to analyzing why musical theatre has been the only theatrical genre that since the 1920s could even begin to claim a place in popular culture. We will pay special attention to the musical’s relationship to other genres and media (including spoken drama, opera, operetta, minstrelsy, vaudeville, jazz, musical modernism, and cinema), its role in consolidating American identities, its seemingly magical power to thrill and enrapture, and its status as a lightning rod for fears and anxieties swirling around cultural legitimation in the U.S. The readings will focus on the history and historiography of the musical, from Showboat (1927) to the works of Stephen Sondheim, with critical analyses of music, text, performance, and reception. New scholarship—on the sociology of culture, orientalism, critical race theory, gender roles, and queer spectatorship—will be emphasized. The readings will examine the development of the genre, especially between Showboat and Gypsy (1959), and individual musicals that have been adept at challenging generic boundaries, including Pal Joey, Lady in the Dark, Oklahoma!, Street Scene, South Pacific, West Side Story, and Sunday in the Park with George.
Wednesdays, 1:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in Theatre Theory: Performance Criticism in Neoliberal Time: Precarity, Things, Labor, Temporality (Professor Maurya Wickstrom): In October, 2012 Theatre Journal issued a volume concerned with objects in the theatre, with things. The Drama Review issued a volume on precarity. Through both volumes run the concurrent themes of labor, theatrical labor and otherwise, and time, all kinds of time. As a companion to the TDR issue, Women in Performance will be issuing a volume on performance and precarity in March, 2013. Along with the 2013 Performance Studies International conference that is focused on temporality, the emergence of these three special issues at the same time would seem to indicate something about the interface of theatre with precarity, things, labor, and temporalities that needs to trouble and inspire our work now. Further, the analytic term neoliberalism is becoming more and more ubiquitous in our scholarship, begging the question of what are the pressures and sensibilities of this neoliberal time that seem to be resulting in these particular trends and concerns among scholars and practitioners.  This course is designed for students to travel through the scholarship and performances that are developing these trends, in order to weigh them, to evaluate them, and to test them for their potential value to each student.  The journal volumes cited above will form the initial centerpiece of the class, which will be simultaneously a study of the function of the “special issue” in scholarship, the structure of such issues, and the kinds of inter-questions, or inter-ideas such issues can create. We’ll follow many of the “leads” in the two journals, seeing where these take us in terms of extending the discussion and source material. These will include reading some of the philosophy and political science that is informing “precarity, things, labor, and temporality”. We’ll also rely on other sources, including work by performance scholars, plays, and performances, which can extend, illuminate or illustrate particular applications of these themes.  In addition to the journals listed above, material for the course may include work by Bruno Latour, Maurizio Lazzarato, Martin Welton, Jane Bennett, Bill Brown, Shannon Jackson, Giulia Palladini, Rebecca Schneider, Maurya Wickstrom, Nick Ridout, Nigel Stewart, Cary Wolf, Paolo Virno, Karl Marx, Graham Harman, Tidal: Occupy Theory, Occupy Strategy, Pig Iron Theatre, and others. An attempt will be made to include plays and performance from periods earlier than our own that provide interesting case studies of these themes. Students will be required to submit two 3-4 page response papers in the course of the semester, and complete a 15-20 page term paper at the end of the semester.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in A National Theatre: German Theatre and Drama in the Long Twentieth Century (Professor Jonathan Kalb): This course considers German theater and drama during the “long 20th Century”—which we will define as extending from roughly 1890 to 2000. Examining questions of social, historical and political background as well as aesthetics, the class will read theatrical material against the various cultural contexts of the late Wilhelminian era, the Weimar Republic, the Third Reich, the post-war era in East and West Germany, and the period following reunification.  Topics for focus include: Wedekind and the fracture of German Naturalism, Expressionism, the rise and development of German directing, political uses of classic drama, Brecht and the Berliner Ensemble, documentary drama, Tanztheater, and Heiner Müller.
Wednesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

Seminar in Film Theory (Professor David Gerstner): This course explores filmmakers and scholars who theorize matters of film form and content. Since the late nineteenth century, a great deal has been written about film in terms of its aesthetic properties as well as its political-ideological possibilities. Through close readings of both the films and writings of theorists we will consider what is at stake in the production of film. Required Text: Film Theory and Criticism [1974], edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, 7th edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Available at Shakespeare Bookstore, Gramercy. 137 East 23rd Street, 212-505-2021.  Supplemental readings can be found in books placed on library reserve or articles placed on e-reserve (see notations below).  Seminar Requirements: A one-page paper is due each week. It should address the readings in relationship to the films viewed in class. Be prepared to read and/or discuss your writings in the seminar. Presentation - 15-25 page paper (based on presentation) Screening/reading schedule and bibliography available in Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).
Mondays, 2:00pm to 6:00pm

Seminar in Film Studies: Film History I (Professor Marc Dolan): This is a course in the history and historiography of the silent cinema, from the zoopraxiscope experiments of Eadweard Muybridge to the reluctant conversion of industries, artists, and audiences to fully synchronized sound. Much of the course will explore how the foundations of modern filmmaking evolved out of the rudimentary work of the earliest filmmakers--how the Edison and Lumière "actuality” films led to the explicitly labeled “documentary,” the cinematic tricks of Georges Méliès to the fantastic action/adventure film, the early melodramas of Porter, Guy-Blache, and Griffith to the so-called narrative style, etc. However, the course will not employ an exclusively auteurist approach. We will also consider the developments of specific national film industries, particular genres, and the points of intersection between those two sets of developments (e.g., American slapstick, Italian historical epics, Swedish naturalism, German expressionism, Soviet montage). Moreover, the play between identifiable national cinemas and the syncretic medium of international cinema will be a central theme of the course, especially since the idea of film as a potentially universal language was one of the most powerful dreams of the silent era. Students will view on reserve and in class individual examples of all these types of films. Three classes during the term will be devoted to reconstructed programs (including short subjects, newsreels, cartoons, etc.) of what a typical audience might have seen when they went to the movies in 1907, 1912, and 1927.  Readings will primarily be drawn from David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s Film History: An Introduction and Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen’s anthology Film Theory and Criticism, but other readings will be put on reserve to reflect the specific interests of registered students.
Thursdays, 11:45am to 2:45pm

Seminar in Film Studies: African Cinema: Toward an Alternative Globality (Professor Peter Hitchcock): Although films have been made in Africa since the 1920s, it is only since the great anti-colonial and independence movements in the middle of the century that significant African cinemas began to emerge in their own right. In part, African cinema aesthetics developed through specific political dimensions precipitate in the socio-economic conditions of decolonization and nationalist expression. African cinema=s further provocation unfolds in the ways in which it has built on traditional narrative story-telling forms (not just oral tales in general, but unique genres, like those of the griot). Whether or not such genres can be visualized remains the challenge in much of African cinema, but more than this, there are sustained and critical pressures at work that greatly inhibit independent and indigenous film making of all kinds. What are the aesthetic priorities of African cinema? How are these compromised or reoriented by the realities of national and international limits on production, distribution, and exhibition? Does indigenous cinema guarantee perspicacity or is such vision distorted by the continually racist and ethnicist assumptions of the international public sphere? What are the ironies of auteurism on the continent? What are the changed parameters in aesthetics and politics that drive new film production in the region? As well as serving as an introduction to the main trajectories of African film making, this course will focus on particular examples of African cinema that demonstrate both the interventions and the contradictions of its art in recent years. Although this course is not intended to bridge the creative schisms between cinema of sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa it will provide guidelines for further work in that regard. Crucially, the class will investigate to what extent an African visual style is possible as a distinctive aesthetic along with the necessity to AAfricanize@ and transform cultural codes associated with Western technology and expansion. Profoundly dialogic, African cinema projects an answerability (responsibility) according to a complex set of micro and macrological contexts. We will consider, for instance, how the defeat of apartheid inspires new and critical South African film. We will also come to terms with the impact of new technologies on African film form and substance, particularly video and digital video, and the emergence of Nollywood as a distinct mode of production and distribution. In this regard we will emphasize the genealogies of African cinema not simply as locally engaged, but as posing an alternative globality. A class presentation and a term paper are required in consultation with the instructor. Students will be encouraged to use theoretical frameworks and an interdisciplinary approach that can integrate their specific research interests. I hope to get Manthia Diawara of NYU to participate for at least one session, especially given our discussion of his film Rouch in Reverse. Reading/viewing schedule available in Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 5:00pm