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Spring 2014

History of Theatrical Theory (Professor Peter Eckersall): This course will introduce students to theatrical theory as a research discipline and will examine theories that have influenced contemporary theatre and performance studies.  We will begin with a general discussion of what constitutes theory and then proceed modularly to examine such key theatrical and performance concepts as representation, mimesis, dramaturgy, and audience response.  A modular structure will allow us to follow and create ongoing dialogues about these concepts as they have evolved.  The second objective of the course will be met through, again, a modular approach to the presentation and discussion of such influential critical and cultural theories as formalism and structuralism, semiotics, post-structuralism, deconstruction, feminism, and cultural theory, as well as other disciplinary approaches—coming from, for instance, anthropology, sociology, and psychology—that have transformed theatre and performance. In addition to the readings, video documentation of performances is suggested for some of the topics and students are invited to bring their own examples of relevant dramatic texts and theatre and performance works into the discussion. 
Tuesdays, 2:00 pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in Theatre History: Advanced Theatre Research (Professor David Savran): This course is designed to provide students who have passed their First Examination with a survey of different structural models for the dissertation as well as the historiographic and theoretical methodologies that have proven most important and useful for theatre and performance studies.  Encouraging students to become fluent in these critical languages, it aims to prepare them to define their fields of study, frame their dissertation topics, conduct original research, and select the methodologies most useful for interpreting and elaborating on their research.   Each student will develop one of his/her second exam fields over the course of the semester in consultation with the instructor and the faculty member supervising the field and at the end of the semester, conduct a class dedicated to the field.  
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in Comparative Drama:  The Borders of Latin-American Theatre and Performance (Professor Jean Graham-Jones): This course responds to recent trends in US latino/a and Latin American theatre and performance studies that re-examine, if not erase, the arbitrary and highly contested geopolitical border separating the United States from Latin America.  Is it productive to construct a "Latin American" theatre in contradistinction to theatre produced by US- and Canada-based latinos?  How else might we study "national" theatres in this moment of transnational globalization? Theorize panlatinidad and mestizaje?   Think about theatre and performance from a hemispheric perspective? To engage with these questions, we will look at the multiple borders–geopolitical, historical, cultural, and aesthetic—of Latino-American theatre and performance.  We will employ recent "border theories" to examine the work of various border-crossers throughout the Latino Americas. Case studies will likely include the Nicaraguan Güegüence; Cuban danzón and Afro-Mexican jarocho; El Vez and other self-situated “border” performance artists; Culture Clash's AmeriCCas project; contemporary chicana/o transformations of classical Greek tragedies and ongoing theatrical responses to femicide along the US-Mexican border; the internal borders of indigeneity and migration in the work of FOMMA and Mapa Teatro; and plays by Calderón, Dorfman, Fornés, Monti, Prida, Rivera, and Spregelburd, as well as the globalized success of The Kiss of the Spider Woman, international theatre festivals, and simulated border-crossings. Finally, we will reflect upon what it means to be, in Delia Poey's term, a border-crossing "coyote-scholar."
Tuesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

Seminar in Comparative Drama:  Performing Arts in Asia:  Tradition, Modernity, Globalization (Professor Peter Eckersall): This course will investigate theatre and performance in the regional context of Asia, a place of dynamic change and rapid modernization.  It will introduce students to contrasting performance traditions including noh, kyôgen and Balinese dance.  It will further consider the ways that theatre has responded to modernization and the development of contemporary culture through studies of theatre artists and contemporary forms of performance across three influential sites: Indonesia and Timor Leste, Singapore and Japan.   The course will study plays, documentation of performances and the historical and contemporary contexts for notable performance groups.  As such, a selection of plays will be examined in English alongside the work of theatre directors and performance makers including artists working to develop interdisciplinary and intercultural forms of expression. A focus of the course will be the consideration of theatre and performance as connected to contexts of nationhood, modernity, culture, politics and globalization.  Hence, we will consider a diverse range of theatre and performance events that show contestatory connections with political and cultural histories while also paying attention to the everyday lives of people wherein performance is a means of documenting and transforming personal experiences.  Students can expect to study a range of pioneers who have influenced Asian performance practices including playwrights such as Rendra, Kishida Rio, Kuo Pao Kun, Kawamura Takeshi and Hirata Oriza.  We will also study contemporary performance practitioners such as Ong Ken Seng, the butoh pioneer Hijikata Tatsumi and groups such as Chelfitsch, and Dumb Type.
Mondays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

History of American Theatre: African American Theatre and Performance: Art, Politics, and Protest (Professor James Wilson) This seminar will focus on the artistic and political impact of African American theatre and performance from the nineteenth century to the present. Although we will examine performances and plays within their historical contexts, we will also consider the role of theatre as a tool for social change in the ongoing struggle for racial equality, representation, and activism. Some of the questions we will consider are: What effect did minstrelsy have on the development of drama, musicals, and performances by African Americans? What propagandistic and aesthetic functions are enhanced or limited by particular dramatic genres, such as the folk play, anti-lynching drama, satirical comedy, and Broadway melodrama? How do issues of class, gender, and sexual orientation intersect with the attempts to forge a national black identity? A sampling of the playwrights and performers will include, but is in no way limited to, Ira Aldridge, William Wells Brown, Bert Williams, Angelina Grimké, Mary Burrill, Willis Richardson, Langston Hughes, Ethel Waters, Lorraine Hansberry, Amiri Baraka, Ed Bullins, the Negro Ensemble Company, Adrienne Kennedy, Ntozake Shange, August Wilson, and Suzan-Lori Parks. We will also examine black pageants, diasporic folk dance concerts, and musical revues. Contemporaneous criticism and theoretical treatises will provide the tools for interpreting and historicizing the texts, and students will be asked to weigh these against recent multidisciplinary scholarship and theory in African American studies (including the work of Henry Louis Gates Jr., Paul Gilroy, Houston Baker Jr., Cheryl Wall, Hazel Carby, Michael North, and others). Course requirements include a presentation, two short written responses (one of which will be a book review suitable for publication), and an original 15-20 page research paper (which will be preceded by a prospectus, annotated bibliography, and an optional first draft). Students will share their research in a mock academic conference. 
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in A Dramatic Genre:  The Rock Musical (Professor Elizabeth Wollman): The rock musical is a broad, loosely defined subgenre of the American musical that started in the US but has been absorbed into musical theatre traditions in many nations. Reflecting the influence of rock music’s stylistic and performance aesthetics, it developed on and Off Broadway beginning in the late 1960s, initially in response to the tastes of the baby-boom generation. While musical theatre composers routinely appropriated popular styles like ragtime and jazz for theatrical purposes shortly after their emergence, Broadway was relatively slow to absorb rock, which did not lend itself as easily to absorption due to comparatively radical sociological, ideological, aesthetic, and performance differences.  This course is designed for graduate students who seek greater understanding of the relationship between the American musical theatre and contemporary popular song, as both have developed from the second half of the 20th century to the present, and as both have spread to become truly international forms of musical expression. Beginning with early rock musicals like Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, and lesser-known works like Your Own Thing and The Last Sweet Days of Isaac, and culminating with more contemporary works like Rent, Next to Normal, and Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, sessions will be devoted to the examination of stage works that reflect interrelated developments in the contemporary pop and commercial theatre worlds, primarily in the US and England, but increasingly across Europe–specifically Germany, Austria, France, Poland, and Russia–in the past half-century. Readings and topics for discussion will emphasize socio-cultural developments, aesthetics, performance ideology, sexuality and gender, and the ever-growing impact of the mass media. Requirements: Weekly reading assignments; class participation; one 20-25 page term paper to be written on a topic that has been approved by the instructor.
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Aesthetics of Film (Professor Edward Miller): This course argues that a crucial aspect of the cinematic enterprise is the depiction of the filmmaking environment itself through the "meta-film." Using this emphasis as an entry into aesthetics, the course involves students in graduate-level film discourse by providing a thorough understanding of the concepts that are needed to perform a detailed formal analysis. The course's primary text is the ninth edition of Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art (2010) and the book is used to examine such key topics as narrative and nonnarrative forms, mise-en-scene, composition, cinematography, camera movement, set design/location, color, duration, editing, and genre. As the soundtrack is a particular focus in this course—and arguably especially important to the meta-film—we supplement Film Art with readings by Michel Chion, Amy Herzog, and Rick Altman. In order to understand the meta-film and its aesthetics we read key sections of Robert Stam's Reflexivity in Film and Literature: From Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (1992), Christopher Ames' Movies about Movies: Hollywood Revisited (1997), Nöth & Bishara's Self-Reference in the Media (2007), John Thornton Caldwell's Production Culture: Industrial Reflexivity and Critical Practice in Film & Television (2008), and Craig Hight’s Television Mockumentary: Reflexivity, Satire and a Call to Play (2011). We also read “classic” essays on metafiction by Patricia Waugh and Linda Hutcheon in order to make distinctions between self-referentiality and reflexivity in film. As part of the course we construct a cross-genre database of films that portray the filmmaking terrain itself. Thus we watch Thanhouser and Marston's Evidence of the Film (1913), Charlie Chaplin's The Masquerader (1914), Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Edward F. Cline’s Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941) Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), Donen and Kelly's Singing in the Rain (1952), Jean Rouch's Chronicle of a Summer (1960), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Federico Fellini's (1963), Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt (1963), François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), Robert Altman's The Player (1991), David Lynch's Inland Empire (2006), Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (2008), and Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (2008). In the final sessions we examine the distinctive aesthetics of current meta-television in shows like 30 Rock and Community in order to make connections across media.  Course Requirements: 1. Weekly response paper: student responds to the film and the ideas presented in the reading and session. 2. Presentation of a reading.  3. Paper proposal, due 10th week: written like an abstract for a conference paper, 500 words. Also presented in class. Sending out this abstract to a conference is strongly recommended. 4. Research paper: Due one week after final day of class, at least 12 pages. This paper is theoretically informed and reflects the content of the course, involving a close formal reading of a meta-film.    
Wednesdays, 4:15pm to 8:15pm

Seminar in Film Studies: Sonic Cinema:  Music, Noise, and Moving-Image Media (Professor Amy Herzog): This elective course will approach key debates in the emerging field of sound and media studies. Beginning with the declarations of the death of cinema that coincided with the first talkies, we will trace the tensions between sound and image that have remained central in critical writing about audiovisual media. Course sessions will include work on film accompaniment in the “silent” era, film scoring, musical films, film soundtracks, music videos, and sound and music in experimental sound and video.  A significant portion of the course will be devoted to developments in digital technology, and their impact on sonic landscapes in new media, from blockbuster films to video games and installation art.  Throughout the semester, and across these diverse media, we will return to several central questions: how can sound serve to reinforce, or to disrupt, regimes of audiovisual representation? Does attention to sound complicate theories of spectatorship and corporeality in cinema?  Toward what political ends do artists deploy sound, music, and noise? Readings will include seminal texts on film music, musical genres, and film sound from authors such as Michel Chion, Claudia Gorbman, Rick Altman, Royal Brown, John Belton, Mary Ann Doane, and Elizabeth Weiss. We will also draw on more recent work, including texts by Frances Dyson, Suzanne Cusick, Anahid Kassabian, Will Straw, Carol Vernallis, and Jonathen Sterne.  Audiovisual works will span a wide historical, geographical, and generic range, with screenings by René Clair, Vincent Minnelli, Alfred Hitchcock, Mary Ellen Bute, Soundies jukebox films, Jacques Demy, Chang Cheh, Jean-Luc Godard, Curtis Mayfield, David Lynch, Michael Haneke, Tsai Ming-liang, Marlon Riggs, Ryan Trecartin, Candice Breitz, Spike Jonze, Bjork, and Konami Games.  Students will conduct a semester-long project, and will present elements of their research during a course session related to their topic.  In addition, they will post four short responses to readings on a course blog. Throughout the semester, students will be encouraged to suggest supplemental readings and to help curate screening sessions, both in-class and online.
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Seminar in Film Studies: Film Noir in Context:  From Expressionisam to Neo-Noir (Professor Morris Dickstein): This course will explore the style, sensibility, and historical context of film noir. After tracing its origins in German expressionism, French “poetic realism,” American crime movies, the hard-boiled fiction of Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, and the cinematography and narrative structure of Citizen Kane, we will examine some of the key films noirs of the period between John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon of 1941 and Welles’s Touch of Evil in 1958. These will include such works as Double Indemnity, Mildred Pierce, Out of the Past, Detour, Shadow of a Doubt, Pickup on South Street, In a Lonely Place, Gun Crazy, The Killers, DOA, Ace in the Hole, The Big Heat, and Kiss Me Deadly. We’ll explore the visual style of film noir, the different studio approaches to noir, importance of the urban setting, the portrayal of women as lure, trophy, and betrayer, and the decisive social impact or World War II and the cold war. We’ll also examine the role played by French critics in defining and revaluing this style, and touch upon its influence on French directors like Melville (Bob le Flambeur, Second Breath), Truffaut (Shoot the Piano Player), and Chabrol (La Femme Infidele, Le Boucher). Finally, we’ll look at the post-1970s noir revival in America in such films as Chinatown, Blade Runner, Body Heat, and Red Rock West. Readings will include materials on the historical background of this style, key critical and theoretical texts on film noir by Paul Schrader, Carlos Clarens, James Naremore, Eddie Muller, Alain Silver and others, and the work of some hard-boiled fiction by writers such as Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, David Goodis, and Patricia Highsmith. Students will be expected to do an oral report and a 15-page term research paper, as well as to study the assigned films both in and out of class.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 5:30pm