History of Theatrical Theory (Professor Jean Graham-Jones): 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.
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Seminar in a Dramatic Genre: Embodying Performance: Corporeality, Affect and Identity (Professor Erika Lin): This course examines theories and practices of embodiment in relation to theatre and performance in a range of times and places. Taking a transhistorical approach to corporeality, we will explore topics such as: sensory perception; cognition and skill; architecture, landscape, and stage space; clothing, props, and prostheses; dance, movement, and gesture; audience affect and interpretation; sexuality and erotic experiences; stage violence; disability; queer, trans*, and intersex bodies; race and ethnicity; age; class and labor politics; sports and spectacle; music and acoustics; and ritualized action, sacred and secular. Each class session will approach a particular aspect of embodiment through disparate performance practices. For instance, we might discuss processional movement and the production of space in relation to Trinidad Carnival, funeral rituals, Ramlila, and modern dance; theatrical spectatorship and technologies of viewing, from the anatomy theatres to the microscope to photography to digital media; gender and sexuality in Galenic humoral theory, Native American kinship structures, Judith Butler, and Taylor Mac; and bodily presence in relation to the Eucharist, theatrical architecture, acoustics, and virtual reality. Examples across various eras and cultural contexts will be juxtaposed against each other to highlight both the historical specificity of bodily practices and discourses and their larger historiographic stakes, particularly in relation to theatrical semiotics, phenomenology, and performativity. Evaluation: active class participation, short weekly response papers, possible brief in-class presentation, research proposal with annotated bibliography, and a final paper.
Tuesdays, 2:00pm 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 and the dissertation proposal, as well as historiographic and theoretical methodologies that have proven especially important 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 a mock dissertation proposal and 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. At the end of the semester, each student will conduct a class dedicated to the field and to the mock dissertation proposal.
Thursdays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Seminar in Comparative Drama: Japanese Theatre and Performance: traditions, modernity, globality (Professor Peter Eckersall): This course will investigate theatre and performance in Japan. It will introduce students to classical performance forms of noh, kyôgen, kabuki and bunraku and consider their aesthetic formation and social context in history as well as today. We will consider Japan’s encounter with modernity in the early 20th century when aesthetic developments in Japanese theatre occurred in dialogue with European avant-gardism. Radical theatre and performance during the 1960s will be discussed in relation to the rise of student protest, and we will consider how contemporary theatre and performance in Japan coopts and resists experience of globalization. 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 Japanese performance practices including playwrights and directors such as Abe Kôbô, Yukio Mishima, Kishida Rio, Kawamura Takeshi, and Hirata Oriza. We will also study contemporary performance practitioners such as the butoh pioneer Hijikata Tatsumi and groups such as Chelfitsch, and Dumb Type.
Tuesdays, 4:15pm to 6:15pm
Theatre History and Production: History of Scenic Design (Professor Marvin Carlson): This course will cover the major trends and leading theorists and practitioners of theatrical stage design in the West from the Renaissance to the present. A wide selection of visual material from the program image collection will be shown in class, which will take place in a computer classroom. There will be approximately three classes devoted to design from the classic period through the 17th century, one on the 18th century, three on the 19th century and six on the 20th and 21st centuries. During the term each student will prepare biographical and artistic studies of two designers, one pre-twentieth century, and one from the twentieth and/or twenty-first centuries. There will be a final examination based on identification of images from the program collection.
Mondays, 2:00pm to 4:00pm
Aesthetics of Film (Professor Cynthia Chris): This course introduces students to the art of cinema, through examination of the qualities, history, and analysis of cinematic form. Approaching aspects of film aesthetics in a variety of genres and forms (for example, melodrama, action, and the musical, as well as documentary, animated, and experimental films), the course will provide students with opportunities to master the fundamental vocabulary of film analysis, including mise-en-scène, shot composition, montage, continuity editing, camera movement, and other concepts. The course considers relationships among the aesthetics of film, television, serialization, digital and interactive media, as well as aesthetic adaptations to changing technologies and industrial formations, from the nickelodeon to the movie palace and multiplex; and from theater to television screens, home theaters, and small format mobile devices. Interrogating relationships between sound and image, style and meaning, production and reception, we will seek to understand the sensory and narrative pleasures of film art: aesthetics is, after all, the philosophy of beauty. Required Text: The Film Experience: An Introduction (Third Edition) by Timothy Corrigan and Patricia White. Excerpts from: Film as Art by Rudolf Arnheim, What Is Cinema? by Andre Bazin, Film Form and/or Film Sense by Sergei Eisenstein, Film Language: A Semiotics of Cinema by Christian Metz, The Society of the Spectacle by Guy DeBord, Window Shopping: Cinema and the Postmodern by Anne Friedberg, Silent Cinema and/or The Death of Cinema: History, Cultural Memory and the Digital Dark Age by Paolo Cherchi Usai, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image by Laura Mulvey, The Skin of the Film by Laura U. Marks, The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded by Wanda Strauven (editor), Film Sound by Rick Altman, Visible Fictions by John Ellis, “Video: The Distinct Features of the Medium” by David Antin, Beyond the Multiplex by Barbara Klinger, Convergence Culture by Henry Jenkins. Screenings may include clips from or full screenings of the following films, among others: Life of an American Fireman (Edwin S. Porter, 1903), Where Are My Children? (Lois Weber, 1916), Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929), M (Fritz Lang, 1931), Bambi (David Hand, 1942), At Land (1944, Maya Deren), The Ernie Kovacs Show (1952-62), Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954), Cleo from 5 to 7 (1961, Agnes Varda), Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964), Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (Chantal Akerman, 1975), Nashville (1975, Robert Altman), Dog Day Afternoon (1975, Sidney Lumet), She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee, 1986), The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1988), Just Another Girl on the IRT (1992, Leslie Harris), Girlfight (Karyn Kusama, 1992), Run Lola Run (1998, Tom Twyker), The Matrix (Andy and Larry Wachowski, 1999), Grizzly Man (2005, Werner Herzog), Sensitive Skin (Hugo E. Blick, 2005), Wall-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008), Girlhood (2014, Céline Sciamma), Transparent (Jill Soloway, 2014—). Assignments: Students will produce weekly short papers in response to assigned readings; participate in class discussions of the readings and screenings; take turns leading discussions on assigned texts; propose a research paper topic in a short essay; 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 of a film of their own choosing.
Mondays, 4:15pm to 7:15pm
Seminar in Film Studies: Rock & Roll & Film & Video: Noise and Image 1954-2014 (Professor Marc Dolan): This course will examine the ways in which one medium has adapted itself to depict another, how cinema has been changed by fifty years’ worth of attempts to capture the essence and experience of rock ‘n’ roll. Originally depicted in mid-twentieth-century films as a novelty or threat—almost as if it were a new ethnic group that endangered transatlantic consensus culture—rock became more familiar subject matter in films of the 1960s and 1970s. Young filmmakers who prided themselves on the uniqueness of their generation’s experience tried to capture rock performance and fandom at this time in a way that did not necessarily repeat the formal poetics of music-on-film that had been inaugurated thirty years before at the height of swing. In succeeding decades, as both the music and its fans aged, rock became a less literal, more mythic subject for filmmakers, with the figures of the rock star and the rock fan becoming more abstracted the farther away audiences got from the new music’s postwar origins. The course will begin with a short, expositional survey of the first three decades of jazz and film but then move rather quickly to the cinematics of rock itself. The first half of the semester will be taken up with a historical survey of film on rock, moving from 50s exploitation films [The Girl Can’t Help It (d: Frank Tashlin, 1956)/King Creole (d: Michael Curtiz, 1958)] to 60s depictions of the world of the British invasion [A Hard Day’s Night (d: Richard Lester, 1964)/Blowup (d: Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)] to the new poetics of American folkrock [Woodstock (d: Michael Wadleigh, 1970)/The Last Waltz (d: Martin Scorsese, 1978)] and British punk [Jubilee (d: Derek Jarman, 1977)/Straight to Hell (d: Alex Cox, 1987)] in the 1970s and 1980s. After a brief investigation of the effects of MTV on both rock and cinema [selected videos by David Fincher, John Sayles, Spike Lee et al/selected episodes of Miami Vice (1984-1989], the course will shift in its second half to a more thematic approach, first examining depictions of local music scenes [Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains! (d: Lou Adler, 1981)/Light of Day (d: Paul Schrader, 1987)] and the music industry itself [Sugar Town (d: Alison Anders & Kurt Voss, 1999)/Laurel Canyon (d: Lisa Chodolenko, 2002)], and then moving on to the consideration of rock and roll as history [Quadrophenia (d: Franc Roddam, 1979)/Absolute Beginners (d: Julien Temple, 1986)], autobiography [Tro, håb og kærlighed [Twist and Shout] (d: Bille August, 1984)/Almost Famous (d: Cameron Crowe, 2000)], and tlinemyth [Phantom of the Paradise (d: Brian DePalma, 1974)/Streets of Fire (d: Walter Hill, 1984)], finally concluding with treatments of the figure of the rock star as symbolic figure [Performance (d: Donald Cammell & Nicolas Roeg, 1970)/Pink Floyd The Wall (d: Alan Parker, 1982)] and postmodern subject [Velvet Goldmine (d: Todd Haynes, 1998)/I’m Not There (d: Todd Haynes, 2007)]. If time permits, we may spend a week on the borrowed, self-generated, and imposed iconographies of David Bowie. Readings will be drawn from David E. James, Rock ‘n’ Film (2016), John Kenneth Muir, Rock and Roll on Film (2007), and Marc Wiengarten, Station to Station: The Secret History of Rock and Roll on Television (2002), as well as a number of journal articles. Prior musical experience or training is not a prerequisite for the course, but a good set of headphones might be nice.
Fridays, 11:45am to 2:45pm
Seminar in Film Theory: Theory of Cinema (Professor David Gerstner): “That the theater is more restrictive than painting is strikingly demonstrated by an experience of [Sergei] Eisenstein. At a time when he still directed theatrical plays he found out by trial and error that stage conditions could not be stretched infinitely—that in effect their inexorable nature prevented him from implementing his artistic intentions, which then called for film as the only fitting means of expression.” And thus writes film theorist Siegfried Kracauer. Why make such a bold assertion (as Kracauer does throughout his career) about the cinema’s aesthetic exceptionalism over that of theater? As it turns out, such comparisons between (especially) theater and cinema inform the foundation of film theory. Concerns over performance, time and space, spectatorship, and movement take place front-and-center for the likes of theoreticians Arnheim, Panofsky, Eisenstein, Epstein, Hartmann, and so on. Although Kracauer is one of the last modernists to make these claims, later film theorists (particularly through French thought) redirected film analysis to questions of language and ideology. At the same time, and as late as Deleuze’s and Rodowick’s contributions, concepts about mise-en-scène, narrative, and the auteur remain in play. Mixed with discussions about race, gender, feminism, nationalism, and sexuality, film theory continues to engage the foundational properties of the cinematic medium to explore a range of theoretical concerns. Required Text Film Theory and Criticism . Edited by Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen, 7th edition, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. This book is on reserve if you prefer not to purchase. Course Reader (CR). Available through University Readers (to order, see instructionspndtw-7 in Blackboard). Assignments Weekly analysis of films and readings (1-1.5 pages). Submit via Blackboard as a Word document only! (see Content folder for assignment uploads) Developing abstract to be presented to and discussed with seminar members. One storyboard with close-analysis: This project involves analyzing a short sequence from a film screened in class. A storyboard created either by film grabs or hand-designed illustrations must be accompanied by brief scene descriptions and theoretical analysis of the main sequence. The project follows a series of readings that will support your work. Your storyboard and analysis must be submitted via Blackboard’s Assignment folder (within the Content folder). You may wish to explore PowerPoint or Keynote (Mac) software that helps create formatting for a storyboard. Final paper (7500-8000 words). Due one week after our last meeting.
Wednesdays, 2:00pm to 6:00pm