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Spring 2013

History of Theatrical Theory (Professor David Savran): This course has two objectives: to introduce students to theatrical theory and to examine other theories that have influenced theatre, performance, and cultural studies. The course will begin with a discussion of what constitutes theatrical theory and then proceed modularly to examine such key theatrical and performance concepts as representation, mimesis, character and identity, genre, and audience response. A modular structure will allow us to follow and create ongoing dialogues about these concepts as they have evolved historically. The second objective of the course will be met through, again, a modular approach to the presentation and discussion of such influential critical/cultural theories as formalism and structuralism, semiotics, poststructuralism, feminism, and postcolonial studies, as well as other disciplinary approaches—coming from, for instance, anthropology, sociology, and psychology—that have transformed theatre studies. Assignments will include two written projects (either two annotated bibliographies or one annotated bibliography and a research paper) and a final oral examination.
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in A Dramatic Genre: Opera and Theatre: Tangled Relations (Professor Judith Milhous): Opera can do almost anything theatre can do, and on a good night (which doesn’t happen as often as some of us would like), can do it better. This course will be more concerned with opera as a part of theatre than with opera qua opera. It is designed to help students study for the First Exam, so it will emphasize the kinds of connections that exam looks for. Examples will be chosen to cover as broad a range of theatrical history as possible, though not in chronological order. No knowledge of music or previous acquaintance with opera is necessary: I assume that many, even most, members of the class will have neither. We will therefore consider elementary topics such as the place of a given opera in its composer’s career (early/late, formula/experiment, success/failure) and its immediate theatrical context (sources; production information of all kinds; stylistic imperatives or departures therefrom). Each opera will be paired with one or more plays that represent the larger theatrical context, and with a relevant theoretical or critical essay. These companion pieces might allow us to consider what was going on in theatre when the opera was first produced and/or what led to its story; or they might concern issues in contemporary production of opera and theatre. When and why the opera has been revived will also get attention. Ballet, which for much of its life was closely associated with opera, will get a nod from time to time. The core of the class is to explore how each form has influenced the other, from the beginnings of opera in Renaissance Italy to the present. Among the pieces we will probably study are: Rimsky-Korsakov, The Snow Maiden; Rameau, Les Indes Galantes; Wagner’s Ring; Britten, Peter Grimes; Gluck, Iphigenie in Aulide; Adams, Nixon in China; Handel, Xerxes; and R. Strauss, Ariadne auf Naxos. (Suggestions for other possibilities would be welcome. To be honest, I accepted some last time, but rejected others.) Requirements include an oral report on one of the operas on the syllabus, a short written report on an opera performance of your choice, and a term paper, either on a subject related to this course or as part of an on-going project, especially a conference presentation.
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Studies in the Current Season ( Professor Marvin Carlson) This course will be built around class visits to five current New York productions during the term. Around each production will be gathered a set of historical and theoretical readings to contextualize and discuss that production. The selection of productions will attempt to cover as wide a range as possible of theatrical approaches, including plays representative of different traditions, historical periods, and dramatic types. Before the beginning of classes in the Spring the first two or three productions will have been chosen, but others will probably not be selected until later in the season, to take advantage of later announcements. Every effort will be made to procure reduced or student seating prices, but students should be prepared to spend up to $200 for theatre admissions. No textbooks, however, will be required.  Assignments: Students will be asked to submit two reports on additional productions.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in Theatre History:  Advanced Theatre Research  (Professor Jean Graham-Jones): This core course is designed to provide students who have passed their first exam with an examination of the historiographic and theoretical methodologies that have proven most important for theatre and performance studies in recent years. Encouraging students to become fluent in these critical languages, the course aims to prepare them to frame their dissertation topics, conduct original research, and select the historiographic and theoretical models most useful for interpreting and elaborating on their research. Because this course is intended in part to provide an overview of recent work in theatre studies, we will examine new historical methods and attempt to pinpoint emerging areas of research. The course will develop students’ theoretical self-awareness by allowing them to experiment with a variety of approaches and to do research in one of their three second exam fields. Assignments: Over the course of the semester, students will be expected to submit several written assignments (including a professional biography and statement of interests, a field statement, and an analysis of two CUNY dissertations) as well as lead a class based on the student’s field statement and reading list, stressing theoretical and methodological tools.
Tuesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

Seminar in Comparative Drama: The Grotesque in Theatre (Professor Anette Saddik): The Theatre of the Grotesque, an anti-realistic dramatic movement that emerged in Italy during the 1910s and 1920s, highlighted the ironic cruelties and incongruities of life, often through macabre elements and tragic humor. It sought to emphasize the sense of futility that accompanied World War I and its aftermath, and is often seen as a precursor to the Theatre of the Absurd. More generally, the notion of “the grotesque” in theatre rests on contradiction, ambiguity, and Victor Hugo’s theories of incongruity, merging the ugly and the beautiful. Along these lines, this course will begin the study of the grotesque in theatre with Luigi Chiarelli’s introduction of the term, and examine the work of Rossi di San Secondo, Luigi Antonelli, and Luigi Pirandello in Italy. We will then move on to discuss the historical development of the grotesque in German expressionism and kabarett, the work of Swiss playwright Friedrich Dürrenmatt, the late plays of Tennessee Williams in the U.S., Argentinean and Uruguayan playwrights Jacobo Langsner, Roberto Mario Cossa, and Griselda Gambaro, and grotesque plays of the Arabic-speaking world. Finally, the course will explore the “new” grotesque characterized by the work of Martin McDonagh and Tracy Letts, and discuss the relationship of the grotesque to related forms, such as the Gothic, Grand Guignol, and Charles Ludlam’s Theatre of the Ridiculous. The theorists we will be covering include Mikhail Bahktin, Julia Kristeva, Victor Hugo, and Vsevolod Meyerhold.  Assignments include two essays (6-8 pages and 10-12 pages), as well as an in-class presentation.
Wednesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

Seminar in Comparative Drama: The Body in Performance (Professor Melinda Powers): Exploring the tension between the study of drama as literature versus its study as performance, this course examines the role of performing bodies as critical signifiers and makers of meaning. We will discuss the difference between the linguistic and corporeal trajectories of performance theory and focus on concepts such as "corporeality", the embodied social codes as exhibited in relation to theatrical space, performance style, costume, properties, gesture, etc. How do such corporeal components work symbiotically to create an embodied discourse? What are the techniques by which theater historians can interpret this discourse? How might this discourse challenge or reinforce social norms? In the study of historical dramas, how can we reconstruct such absent corporeal aspects from the available historical sources? What problems arise in doing so? Mindful of such questions surrounding the study of performance, we will read critical works such as those of Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, Marcel Mauss, Susan Leigh Foster, Cynthia Novack, Joseph Roach, and Diana Taylor, while we examine performance style and artists such as contact improvisation, Takarazuka, Grotowski, Terzopoulos, and Carmelita Tropicana. In the process, we will consider the ways in which both a production’s historical context and the performance context of the theater (e.g. theatrical space, costume and properties, audience) both influence and are influenced by performing bodies. Course requirements include weekly discussion questions, an in-class presentation, and 15 – 20 page research paper.
Mondays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Aesthetics of Film (Professor David Gerstner): This course introduces the properties of cinematic form by exploring film in relationship to the other arts. Since its beginnings, film was theorized—as art, as political tool, as entertainment—against the backdrop of the aesthetic properties of painting, theatre, literature, and, in some instances, magic.  By studying the specific properties of cinema, the content it ultimately delivers, and its use of and break from the other arts, we will investigate (through the writings of filmmakers and theorists) film aesthetics as a dynamic and modernist negotiation of multi-mediated texts. In this way, this course will engage issues of genre, style, and narrative as they are transformed through the mode of cinematic production and address.Assignments: Students will be expected to write short weekly response papers to the readings and screenings (1-2 pages), be prepared to discuss the films and readings, and complete a 7500-word final paper.  Bibliography available in the Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 6:00pm

Seminar in Film Studies: Film History II (Professor William Boddy): This course will explore major developments in US and global film culture from the introduction of sound to the advent of the "blockbuster" era in Hollywood in the mid-1970s. We will analyze works from a number of national cinemas, artistic movements, and major directors, including Fritz Lang, Jean Renoir, Howard Hawks, Roberto Rossellini, Billy Wilder, Jean-Luc Godard, and Martin Scorsese.  Topics addressed include the problem of film authorship, the development of film genres and aesthetic styles, and the relationship of the classical Hollywood studio system to alternative models of film production in the United States and elsewhere.  Emphasis will be placed on the historical, aesthetic, and ideological contexts of the films examined. Learning goals for students in this course include the demonstration of intellectual competency in the field, the ability to apply effective and appropriate research tools and techniques, and the development of competence in the integration and presentation of research knowledge in written and oral communication.Required Text: David Cook, A History of Narrative Film fourth edition (New York: Norton, 2004); Additional readings as indicated in the class schedule are available on ERes at the Graduate Center library accessible at http://eres.gc.cuny.edu.ezproxy.gc.cuny.edu/eres/default.aspxThe course password is fscpboddy. Some of the screenings on the class schedule involve selected extracts from the films indicated; films will be placed on reserve at the Graduate Center library and are available for viewing outside of class. Course Requirements: In addition to participation in seminar discussion, each student will prepare ten short response papers to the films and readings, write a 15 page research paper on a topic approved by the instructor, and prepare a brief oral presentation of the research project to the seminar. Written work submitted late will be penalized.  Course Schedule available in the Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110.
Wednesdays, 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Seminar in Film Studies: Cinema, Comedy, Theory(Professor Cynthia Chris): Film comedy encompasses performances of both verbal dexterity—as in the dazzling dialogues of films from Bringing Up Baby to A Serious Man—and corporeal spectacle—as typified by Harold Lloyd in Safety Last or the stunt-work of the Jackass films. Moreover, these forms of comedic performance are thoroughly integrated throughout cinema. This course considers humor in cinematic form: comedy as a genre, cinematic practice, mode of performance that is simultaneously language- and body-based, and cultural contest. Drawing on foundational philosophical, psychological, and anthropological theories of humor, joking, and laughter by Sigmund Freud, Henri Bergson and Mary Douglas, and others, as well as contemporary theoretical explorations of these practices, this course will focus on live-action films, including a unit on stand-up comedy in feature film form. We will distinguish among types of humor (such as jokes, wit, and satire) and comedy subgenres (such as slapstick, screwball, mockumentary, and gross-out), as well as “dark” or “black” comedy, with attention to the techniques of mise-en-scène, editing, and sound that are utilized to provoke laughter in the feature film. Assignments: Students will produce short weekly response papers to readings; participate in class discussions of the readings and screenings; take turns leading discussions on assigned texts; propose a research paper topic; and write a final research paper (approximately 15 pages) on some aspect of film aesthetics that demonstrates their capacity to apply course concepts to an original analysis on a course-related topic of their own choosing. 
Mondays, 2:00pm to 6:00pm