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Spring 2015

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.
Mondays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

Seminar in A Dramatic Genre: Symbolism, the First Theatrical Avant-Garde (1890-1918) and its Legacies (Professor David Willinger): This will be a seminar in the first avant-garde movement to arise following the juggernaut that was Naturalism:  Symbolism. Starting in France, this style (or styles) spread internationally, producing multiple hybrids as it went.  We will consider Symbolism (as opposed to symbolism) in all its multiplicity, taking on such issues as the nature of the static form, the heavy influence of mysticism and the backlash against positivism, the fin-de-siècle sensibility, millenarian expectations, decadence, apocalyptic anxieties, and the impact of Symbolism on subsequent movements such as Futurism and Surrealism, and much later periods, including our own. There will be discussion of Symbolist production – notably the mise-en-scènes of Fort, Lugne-Poë, and Meyerhold – as well as later directors whose work may be seen as an outgrowth of those earlier experiments – including such figures and groups as Robert Wilson, Mabou Mines, Bread and Puppet, and Handspring Puppets. There will be explorations of the vast mine of Symbolist painting (Redon, Knopff, Moreau, Kubin, Vrubel, Klimt, Ensor, Picasso), poetry (Verlaine, Mallarmé, Maeterlinck), and prose (Huysmans, Rodenbach) ancillary to explicating the innovations introduced into theatre. Contemporary theorists will include Maeterlinck, Yeats, Meyerhold, Strindberg, Craig, Symons, and Evreinov.  Later theoretical and historical works of the following authors will be among those employed to supplement the play readings: Anna Balakian, Michael Billington, Haskell Block, Frantisek Deak, Daniel Gerould, Michael Hamburger, John Henderson, James McFarlane, Patrick McGuiness, Ronald Peacock, Miklos Szabolocsi, Edmund Wilson, and Katherine Worth.  Written assignments: Each student will be required to do two short oral presentations, which will then be submitted in writing as well as a major (15-20-page) research paper.  Plays will be chosen from the among the following: (nb: Many of these are short works, so several may be assigned each week.) Villiers de l’Isle-Adam: Axel; Maeterlinck: The Intruder, The Blind, The Princess Maleine, The Death of Tintagiles; Andreyev: The Life of Man, The Black Masks; Strindberg: To Damascus, Storm; Ibsen: When We Dead Awaken, The Master Builder; Valle-Inclàn: Dream Comedy; Panizza: The Council of Love; Micinski: Ballad of the Seven Sleeping Brothers in China; Wilde: Salome; Yeats: Shadowy Waters, Cathleen Ni Houlihan; Rachilde: Crystal Spider; Prszybyszewski: Visitors; Bely: Jaws of the Night;  Evreinov: A Merry Death; D’Annunzio: The Dead City; Tagore: Karna and Kunti; Hauptmann: The Sunken Bell; Sologub: The Triumph of Death; Blok:  The Fairground Booth; Hoffmansthal: Death and the Fool; Wedekind: Pandora’s Box; Bonner: The Purple Flower; Bryant: The Game: A Morality in One Act; Cummings: Santa Claus, Him.   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.
Wednesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm

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: Theatre of the Middle East (Professor Marvin Carlson): Although the Arab world is thought by many Westerners to possess little or no theatre, a complex and thriving international drama has in fact developed there since the middle of the nineteenth century, anticipated by medieval passion plays in Persia and by shadow and puppet plays from as early as the eleventh century. Pre-state theatres were established by the 1930s in Israel, and a major theatre has developed in that nation since statehood. This course will provide a brief survey of theatre in this region since the middle ages, and will focus on the twentieth-century theatre of the major traditions in the area, in Egypt, Syria, and Israel. Major dramatists from these countries such as Tawfik al-Hakim, Sadallah Wannus, and Yehohua Sobol will be read, along with representative dramas from other states in the region such as Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Palestine, Tunisia, and Kuwait. The course will consider how socio-political concerns, from colonialism to current conflicts, have operated on the theatre of this region, and such matters as levels of language and the use of history, religion, mythology, and folk material in this drama will also be considered. All material for the course will be read in English translation. Required texts: Jayyusi and Allen, Modern Arabic Drama, 1995; Michael Taub, Modern Israeli Drama in Translation, 1993.  2 papers will be required.
Mondays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Studies in Theatre Aesthetics:  Mediatized Performance (Professor Edward Miller): This course explores theories and practices of mediatized performance by focusing upon the interlinking of media and theatre in a staged event. We examine the work of directors, choreographers, and artists whose work incorporates and makes visible or audible the use of media, such as William Forsythe, Merce Cunningham, Gob Squad, Ivo von Hove, Elevator Repair Service,  Builders Association, Robert LePage, and the Wooster Group. Key questions include: How integral and apparent is the use of technology to the composition and the aesthetics of the performance? Does the use of projected imagery or remixed sounds serve to enlarge or contain the dimensions of theatrical space? How do instances of mediatized performance transmit and frame the body and voice of the performer? In order to address these concerns we read key texts in performance and media theory by Steve Dixon, Matthew Causey, Josephine Machon, Rebecca Schneider, Steven Connor, DJ Spooky, Peggy Phelan, Philip Auslander, Paul Sanden, Christof Migone, Jonathan Sterne, Jay Bolter, Eduardo Navas, and Lisa Gitelman. The second half of the course focuses on three distinctive mediatized realms: postwar radio drama (including work of Beckett and Artaud), contemporary dance theatre and its use of videated images, and the current digitization of performing arts archives and its ramifications for research, performance history, and the “repertoire.” Student work for the course includes presenting a session’s reading and leading discussion, an abstract that is designed for submission, and a term paper of 15-20 pages. The final class is structured like a conference in which students summarize their research findings.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Theatre and Society:  Rootless Cosmopolitans:  Yiddish Theatre and the Aesthetics of Diaspora (Professor Debra Kaplan): How have the experiences of migration, exile, and dislocation intersected with theatre history, aesthetics, and practice? In this course, we will investigate how theatre is produced and how it functions in diasporic contexts, with a particular focus on the history of the Yiddish stage. This seminar is intended both as a historical survey of Yiddish theatre history and as an introduction to diaspora studies for the theatre historian. Readings in diaspora theory across the disciplines (including anthropology, sociology, history, political science, comparative literature, geography, theatre history, performance studies, and musicology) are paired with plays that exemplify particular diasporic traits, themes, or aesthetic sensibilities, with a special focus on Yiddish theatre as a paradigmatic case study. Topics include diaspora aesthetics, multilingualism, double consciousness, theatre of the subaltern, hybridity, nostalgia, adaptation, and diasporic performance in the digital age and readings include plays by Avrom Goldfaden, Jacob Gordin, Peretz Hirschbein, Y.L. Peretz, Alter Kacyzne, Sh. Ansky, H. Leivick, and Dovid Pinsky. We will consider the international, cross-cultural success of plays like The Dybbuk and The Golem alongside historiographic questions about the location of diasporic performance traditions in theatre history. Requirements: Weekly reading assignments, research proposal, oral presentation, 15-20 page research paper. 
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm

Seminar in Film Studies: America Film of the 1970s (Professor William Boddy): This course explores the explosion of creative American filmmaking around the 1970s from a new generation of directors, writers, and actors working within traditional Hollywood genres, including the gangster film, the Western, and film noir.  During a period of unusual economic uncertainty for the film industry, studios enlisted fresh creative talent and storytelling forms to reach new audiences during a time of disruptive social and political change. While the focus of the course will be on the major innovative works from 1970s Hollywood, we will also consider the impact of the European art cinema, the role of émigré creative personal working in America, and the influence of documentary and avant-garde filmmaking and critical practices on the wider film culture of the 1970s.  Required readings: The required texts are David A Cook, Lost Illusions:  American Cinema in the Shadow of Watergate and Vietnam, 1970-1979 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), and Thomas Elsaesser, Alexander Horwath, and Noel King, eds., The Last Great American Picture Show: New Hollywood Cinema in the 1970s (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2004). Additional readings indicated on the class schedule are available via ERes at the Graduate Center Library.  Requirements: In addition to participation in seminar discussion, each student will submit ten short response essays to the films and readings to Blackboard, 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. Class schedule/readings available in the Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).
Tuesdays, 11:45am to 3:15pm

Seminar in Film Studies: African American 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 “Africanize” 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. Suggested reading/viewing schedule available in the Certificate Programs Office (Room 5110).
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 5:00pm

Seminar in Film Theory (Professor Amy Herzog): This class will provide an overview of significant movements, debates, and figures in film theory.  Readings will span both classical and contemporary film theory, addressing a range of approaches including realism, structuralism, auteur theory, genre criticism, psychoanalytic film theory, feminist and critical race theories, and third cinema.  The class will examine writings on cinema in their historical and national contexts, looking at the ways in which film theory intersects with political, cultural, and aesthetic trends.  The final sessions of the course will focus on recent developments in film theory, in particular the debates surrounding cognitive approaches to film, the evolution of digital technology, and the writings of philosopher Gilles Deleuze.  In each case, new theoretical work on cinema will be read in relation to the complex history of film criticism.  In addition, the class will examine the field of film theory alongside related fields of aesthetics and representation (e.g. art history and photography, television studies, cultural studies, visual studies, postmodernism), exploring the ways these disciplines have overlapped. Each seminar meeting will involve close analyses of readings related to a particular topic or theme. Screenings will be conducted in class. Ideally, students will also view supplemental films that are suggested, and attend screenings and discussions in venues around the city.  Students will write either two ten-page analysis papers, performing close readings of theoretical texts, or one twenty-page research paper on a topic in film theory.  Each student will also be responsible for a short, illustrated presentation, meant to facilitate our discussion of the readings for that class (these presentations were a highlight of the course this fall; the students approached them quite creatively). We will also post questions and responses to the readings on a course blog.
Wednesdays, 11:45am to 3:45pm