Contextual and Intertextual Studies in Drama (Professor Marvin Carlson): This course will be concerned with texts drawn from the world drama through 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 how they relate to other texts thematically or structurally. Each class will address approximately three plays (lengths vary), plus ancillary material, with substantial representation both of 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; and 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, 2:00 pm to 4:00pm
Seminar in Theatre Theory and Criticism: What About Time? The Provocative Conjunctions of Theatre and Temporality (Professor Maurya Wickstrom): “Marx says that revolutions are the locomotive of world history. But perhaps it is quite otherwise. Perhaps revolutions are an attempt by the passengers on this train--namely, the human race--to activate the emergency brake.” Walter Benjamin, “Paralipomena to ‘On the Concept of History’”. Christophe: Precisely - this people must claim for itself, must will and succeed at, something impossible! Against fate, against history, against Nature!... I say the Citadel, the liberty of all people… It cancels the slave ship. Aimé Césaire, The Tragedy of King Christophe: a Play. These two quotations bring us close to some (but not all) of the central concerns of this class. Benjamin, in his defense of historical materialism and his antagonism to historicism, is one of the leading guides to thinking ourselves out from temporal linearity, the modernist narratives of progress, and the temporality of the successive instant. The class is premised in the political urgency of thinking time differently and exploring why that is so. We will investigate ways that theatre practice and scholarship can be important mediums for new temporal experience and thought. Both quotations also imply questions about the relation of time to history. In theatre we are often entangled with history, whether with a history play, or a period play being adapted, or with playwrights and devisors working on the problem of history and our relation to it. In the class we’ll talk about how history and temporality can be usefully re-thought in relation to each other and how that can affect how we make and think about theatre. During this course we will examine precursors and foundations in thought on time including for instance Aristotle/Neoclassicism, Medieval theological time, and scientific progressivism. We’ll look at current dominant trends in thinking about time and theatre, especially in phenomenology in the work, for instance, of Matthew Wagner. The central part of our study will focus on innovative and emerging contemporary thinking on time, and time in theatre and performance, which corresponds to the larger “temporal turn” in the arts. The work we’ll read ranges from the philosophical texts of Benjamin, Agamben, Badiou, and Negri to theoretical work on neoliberal time as in Ridout, Schneider, Jackson, Berlant, and others. Plays and performances could include, for example, Glissant, Césaire, C.L.R James, Adrienne Kennedy, Last Judgment plays, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Naomi Wallace, Suzan-Lori Parks, Beckett, Brecht, The Gob Squad, Andrew Schneider, and William Kentridge, as well as productions and/or performance available to see during the semester. Course Requirements: A short class presentation (10-15 minutes); Mid-term response paper (8-10 pages); Final paper (15-20 pages)
Wednesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm
Seminar in Theatre Theory: Theatre and Related Performing Arts: Weimar on the Hudson: Music Theatre between the World Wars (Professor David Savran): The 1930s bore witness to an unprecedented migration of artists, writers, and philosophers from Germany and Austria to elsewhere in Europe and the United States. This course studies the transatlantic traffic in music theatre—broadly construed—between the German-speaking world and the U.S. from the 1920s to the 1940s. Engaging with theories of exile, migration, and transnational cultural production, it will focus on artists and social theorists exiled to the U.S., many of them already influenced in the 1920s by U.S. culture, especially jazz and Hollywood cinema. These include Kurt Weill, Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Alexander Zemlinsky, Emmerich Kálmán, Ralph Benatzky, Arnold Schoenberg, Theodor W. Adorno, as well as anti-fascists such as Ödön von Horvath and Walter Benjamin who were not fortunate enough to make it the U.S. The course will also analyze operetta and musical theatre made in the U.S. by artists already conversant with European vernaculars, including Jerome Kern, Sigmund Romberg, Marc Blitzstein, and Cole Porter. Because works of these artists continue to be performed on both sides of the Atlantic, we will also study recent performances on both continents—as well as the many tragic echoes of exile from Nazi Germany in the current refugee crisis in Europe. Final grades will be determined by participation in seminar, two written reports, and a final paper.
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Seminar in Theatre History: Advanced Theatre Research (Professor James Wilson): 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
Studies in Theatre Aesthetics: Black Box/White Cube (Professor Peter Eckersall) and (Professor Claire Bishop): This course investigates the resurgence of dialogue between visual art and the performing arts: visual artists hiring actors and dancers, theatre directors using video and non-professional performers, choreographers making exhibitions. The apparent similarity of the resulting works is belied by the different traditions and discursive frameworks of their makers. This course will examine key issues in thinking through the overlaps and differences between “white cube” and “black box” performance. Seminars will be organized around complementary terms, including (but not limited to): dramaturgy and curatorship, immersion and alienation, re-enactment and adaptation, virtuosity and de-skilling. Students will examine a range of theoretical perspectives and practitioners, including Christoph Schlingensief, Rimini Protokoll, Xavier Le Roy, Tania Bruguera, Kris Verdonck, Okada Toshiki, Tadasu Takamine, Tino Sehgal, and Boris Charmatz. In order to test the emergent globality of this trend (and its limits), artists from a diversity of cultural and geographical locations will be considered, as well as projects currently taking place in New York. Evaluation: Assessment will be on the basis of participation in class discussions (10%), an in-class abstract (30%), and a final research paper (60%) to be delivered in a mini-conference at the end of the semester.
The course will be cross-listed between the PhD Programs in Theatre and Art History.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Theatre and Society: Performance and the Latin American City (Professor Jean Graham-Jones): This course builds upon recent theory and scholarship regarding urban culture to examine the multiple and varied historical relations between performance and the Latin American city. While incorporating into our study selections from the performance histories of such cities as Bogotá, Havana, Lima, Mexico City, Montevideo, Santiago, and São Paulo, we will take as our central case Buenos Aires, one of the Americas’ cultural megalopolises and home to arguably more theatrical activity today than any other city in Latin America. We will benefit from various disciplinary approaches to studying urban performances as we proceed in a roughly chronological fashion from before European arrival to the contemporary period. On the way we will consider, through theatrical and other performances, the often-contentious relationships surrounding such key topics as the (capital) city and the nation; immigration and indigeneity; artistic experimentation and the commerce of art; memory politics and memory sites; and urban cultural survival and reinvention in the “global city.” All in-class examples will come from Latin American urban artistic production; however, students are welcome to consider other cities as possible subjects for their individual research projects. Evaluation: Students will be assessed through participation (including a series of required online responses and in-class interventions), a brief class presentation, and a final research paper (15-20 pages).
Thursdays, 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 tenth edition of Bordwell and Thompson's Film Art (2012) and the book is used to examine such key topics as narrative and nonnarrative forms, mise-en-scène, composition, cinematography, camera movement, set design/location, color, duration, editing, and genre. As sound 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 and reflexivity in video art by Rosalind Krauss in order to make distinctions between self-referentiality and reflexivity in film. We make full use of a database of media that depicts the production terrain itself. We watch Thanhouser and Marston's Evidence of the Film (1913), Charlie Chaplin's The Masquerader (1914), Max Fleisher’s The Tantalizing Fly (1919), Dziga Vertov's Man with a Movie Camera (1929), Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard (1950), Donen and Kelly's Singing in the Rain (1952), Chuck Jones’s Duck Amok (1953), Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (1960), Federico Fellini's 8½ (1963), Jean-Luc Godard's Contempt (1963), François Truffaut's Day for Night (1973), Richard Serra and Nancy Holt’s Boomerang (1974), Robert Altman's The Player (1991), David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001), Farah Khan’s Om Shanti Om (2007), Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind (2008), Pedro Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces (2009), and David Cronenberg’s Map to the Stars (2015). In the final sessions we examine the aesthetics of recent comedic meta-television in series such as The Comeback (2005 and 2014) and Extras (2005-07); we also make an attempt at tracing a genealogy by viewing The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (1950-58) and Mary Hartman Mary Hartman (1976).
Tuesdays, 4:15pm to 8:15pm
Film Theory: French Cinema and French Thought in the Twentieth Century (Professor David Gerstner): To what extent did twentieth-century French intellectual discourse intersect with French film theory, criticism, and filmmaking? By pairing the writings of specific and relevant philosophers with French film critics/filmmakers, the course explores the conceptual relationship between philosophy and cinema. Concerns over theories of language, ritual, phenomenology, existentialism, psychoanalysis, and ideology melded in complex ways with discussions focused on film form, content, and the cinema-as-apparatus. This intellectual and creative dynamic emerges during a critical historical period in which critics and artists rigorously worked through the broad implications of the cinema. By studying the connections between these ideas (and, at times, their overlap) we will put into perspective the way ideas about cinema took hold in France. In doing so, we will screen films that put to the test a mix of philosophical discourse with film theory/making. Furthermore, by grounding these theories and film practices within a historical context (war, art movements, “Americanization,” political protest, colonization) we will consider the rapidly changing French culture that unfolded during the twentieth century and the cinema that recorded these transformations. A preliminary list of readings include selections from Bergson, Freud, Husserl, Merleau-Ponty, Sartre, De Beauvoir, Lacan, Wittingstein, Lévi-Strauss, Fanon, Althusser, Cixous, Mulvey, Irigary, and Deleuze; film criticisms and theories include those by Delluc, Dulac, Epstein, Clair, Renoir, Moussinac, Bazin, Morin, Genet, Mitry, Truffaut, Godard, Metz, and Aumont. Possible filmmakers include Gance, Delluc, Dulac, Epstein, Clair, Renoir, Buñuel, Carné, Grémillon, Rouch, Genet, Marker, Varda, Demy, Resnais, Godard, Pialat, Pontecorvo, Denis, Breillat, and Honoré. Required texts include: Course Reader (selected readings), Alan Williams’ Republic of Images, and Richard Abel’s French Film Theory and Criticism, Volumes One and Two. These books will be available on library reserve. For one semester only, students will be able to receive credit for the Film Theory requirement by taking Film Theory: French Cinema & French Thought in the 20th Century
Fridays, 11:45am to 3:45pm
Seminar in Film Studies: Media Studies: Archives and Repertoires (Professor Mariam Ghani): Archives & Repertoires is a graduate-level seminar about the structures, uses, and performances of archives. Topics under consideration will include, but are not limited to: the film as archive, the body as archive, and where those may intersect; repertoires, or embodied knowledge, and how they are transformed by documentation; the circulation of moving images, the particular metadata produced by that circulation, and the lives of copies apart from their originals; the paradoxes of preserving variable media; what happens to political films that outlive the movements that produced them; and the ethical questions around the use of video archives in human rights activism, ownership of testimony, re-use, and re-mixing. We will likely take at least one trip to a working media archive to observe current practices in the field. Students will be required to complete weekly readings, to lead and participate in classroom discussion of those readings, to produce one 5-page creative or critical text in response to readings and class presentations, and to produce one 15-page final paper based on independent archival research. A final creative project of equal depth and commitment may be substituted for the paper with prior approval from the instructor. Students will be given wide latitude for independent exploration in their coursework, but will also be responsible for bringing a great deal of thought and preparation to the classroom each week. (Mariam Ghani is an artist, writer, filmmaker and teacher, currently teaching in the MFA program in Social Practice at Queens.)
During the semester, a “Mediating the Archive” seminar will be offered by the Center for the Humanities Mellon Seminar on Public Engagement and Collaborative Research, which should be of great interest to the students enrolled in this course.
Wednesdays, 11:45am to 2:45pm
Seminar in Film Studies: The Civil Rights Movement in Film (Professor Michelle Wallace): In The Civil Rights Movement in Film we will screen the films together as a class, followed by discussion of the film in relationship to supportive readings. These readings will directly support the historical narratives of the events portrayed. Ain’t Nothing But a Man I have researched extensively and can provide background. It recreates a scenario of a Southern town but, in fact, given the prominence of segregation at the time in the South, it would have been impossible to make the film on location, and so it was filmed instead, with an extraordinary cast, in Atlantic City, which is a fascinating story in, itself. Selma represents cinematic history on many levels, but the three things that are most fascinating to me are: 1) it is directed by a black woman and she is positioned, at the moment, to sweep the awards; 2) this is the first feature film about the Civil Rights Movement that I have ever seen that was even a candidate for a discussion about historical truth (with the possible exception of Spike Lee’s Malcolm X, which some might consider not to be about the Civil Rights Movement, although I do); and 3) the use of music in the film is absolutely stunning and unprecedented in its combination of strength and restraint. The list of films to show would be as follows: Eyes on the Prize (1954-1965), 6 one-hour episodes, DVD (shown in three sessions); Ain’t Nothin’ But a Man, dir. Michael Roehmer (feature) 1961; Freedom Summer, dir. Stanley Nelson (documentary); Malcolm X, dir. Spike Lee (feature), 1992; Boycott (HBO feature), dir: Clark Johnson 2001; Four Little Girls, dir. Spike Lee (documentary), 1997; Ruby Bridges (Disney feature), dir: Euzhan Palsy (feature); Selma, Lord, Selma, dir: Charles Burnett, 1999 (feature); The Butler, dir. Lee Daniels, 2013 (feature); Selma, dir. Ava Du Vernay, 2014 (feature). Assignments: Two oral reports concerning the readings as relates to aspects of the films. The films will also be made available to students for viewing at home or in the library. And a final paper on either one film, or one event in the Civil Rights Movement as represented by two or more of the films.
Thursdays, 4:15am to 8:15pm