Show The Graduate Center Menu

Fall 2020

Fall 2020 Course Descriptions

THEA70100-Theatre Research
(Professor James Wilson)
Thursday 2:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.
This course will provide an overview of the profession and how one begins to join the conversation it represents. Classes will concern such matters as general research methodologies as demonstrated in current publications; approaches to historiography; the procedure for getting papers accepted for conferences and the benefits of participating therein; and a number of issues related to teaching. A constant theme will be the preparation and writing of research papers, conference papers, and papers for publication. Examples and strategies will be drawn from scholarship on a broad range of geographical and historical material. Factors that affect grades include: demonstration that the assigned readings have been done, via informed participation in class discussion and on an in-class exam, written on the scheduled exam date; weekly written exercises; and several class presentations, most of them connected to a final term paper.

THEA 70300-Contextual and Intertextual Studies in Drama
Monday 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
(Professor Marvin Carlson)
A study of selected dramatic texts from world drama, representing a wide range of traditions and forms, from ancient times to the present. Three or more plays, depending on length, will be analyzed each week, along with ancillary theoretical and historical materials. Plays studied will be placed in historical, intellectual, and cultural contexts and viewed in relation to other works of literature, art, and music. Special consideration will be given to the nature and history of genres, such as farce, tragicomedy, melodrama, history play; types, such as the political, including agit-prop, living newspaper, documentary, verbatim; movements, such as Sturm und Drang, naturalism, symbolism; modes, such as satire, pastoral, grotesque, sublime; devices and conventions, such as parable, allegory, ekphrasis; themes and topics (topoi), such as myth, social or natural environments (ecocriticism), war, exile; and cultural encounters, such as appropriation, adaptation, parody. Assignments include one short and one longer paper and a final examination.

THEA80200-Seminar in Dramatic Genre
Cross-listed with FREN86200-Theater Without Drama: In Search of a Contemporary French Tradition
(French owns and runs this course)
Professor Amin Erfani
Tuesday 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
This course provides an overview of 20th & 21st century French and Francophone theater and its theories. Following the emergence of photography and cinema as new art forms, the rise of avant-garde movements questions the notion of “drama” as a discipline and that of “representation” as its founding principle. Simultaneously, modern theater reflects society’s inverted image in challenging concepts of cultural and national identity, while giving voice to anti-heroes, the social destitute, and sexual and gender minorities. From a historical standpoint, the class will examine the crucial impact of France’s “théâtre public” on the dramatic genre at large. In addition, philosophical and psychoanalytic theories of theater will inform our reading of seminal works of modern and contemporary playwrights. The discussion will reframe modern theater as breaking away from the dramatic, psychological, and cathartic models of the prior centuries. In doing so, modern theater rediscovers its ancient origins in ritual, choral, and monologist forms. While acknowledging the recent “post-dramatic” perspective undercutting the text as a central medium, we will investigate emerging forms of writing that prove to be as transformative for the theater as its new-found taste for multidisciplinary staging, performance art, and new media. 

THEA85300-Critical Perspectives on U.S. Musical Theatre
(Professor David Savran)
Wednesday 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Developed in the United States in the late nineteenth century, the Broadway musical has long been the most influential, adaptable, and category-defying theatrical form. This course will trace its genealogy and analyze its role in mediating between popular and elite cultures. We will pay special attention to the musical’s relationship to other genres and media, its role in consolidating U.S.-American identities, its seemingly magical power to thrill and enrapture, and its status as a lightning rod for anxieties swirling around cultural legitimation in the U.S. We will also consider musical theatre as a global practice, looking at its European connections in the early twentieth century and its status today as world theatre.

The readings will focus on the history and historiography of the musical, from Show Boat (1927) to the works of Stephen Sondheim and Hamilton (2015), with critical analyses of music, text, performance, and reception. New scholarship—on the sociology of performance, orientalism, critical race theory, gender, and queer spectatorship—will be emphasized. The course will highlight musicals that have been particularly adept at challenging generic boundaries, including Lady in the Dark, South Pacific, West Side Story, and Sunday in the Park with George. Final grades will be determined by participation in seminar, three written reports, and a final paper.

THEA85700-Contemporary Performance and Public Space
Professor Bertie Ferdman
Wednesday, 4:15 p.m. – 6:15 p.m.
This course will explore contemporary performance practices that take place outside traditional theatre buildings and that engage with the experience of space and/or situation as an integral component to the content and structure of the work. Through visual art, theatre, and performance studies, we will address the inherent interdisciplinarity of such site-situated performance practices, and we will pay special attention to those that take place in urban public spaces.

We will look at examples from the United States to lay out the main theoretical challenges in analyzing site-situated performances. We will then turn to examples from urban centers in France, Germany, Chile, Peru, and Mexico, locations that provoke the central questions of the course: What are approaches to site-based performance dramaturgies, and how have these changed over the last four decades? What constitutes “public space”? Who is included/excluded in notions of “the public”? How do such practices navigate the ethics associated with performance actions in public spaces? How do these performances engage with the different kinds of publics they encounter? Performance examples will be primarily from the 1980s to the present, but we will also consider historical precursors from the ’60s and ’70s, including Happenings, Situationists International, and political street theatre.

To approach such live performances, which we will read about and/or view through documentation, we will use theoretical readings on the public sphere, spatial politics, historical reenactment, social practice, gentrification, and urban aesthetics by the following authors: Christopher Balme, Claire Bishop, Rosalyn Deutsche, Susan Haedicke, David Harvey, Jen Harvie, Shannon Jackson, Henri Lefebvre, Michael McKinnie, Rebecca Schneider, Neil Smith, Kim Solga, Cathy Turner, and Nicolas Whybrow, among others. Course requirements will include a class presentation and a research paper.

THEA86000-Festive and Ritual Performance
Professor Erika Lin
Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
This course will examine theories and practices of festive and ritual performance in a range of times and places and will explore their implications for theatre as both an aesthetic object and an efficacious performative enactment. Topics for discussion may include: religious ritual and popular devotion; dance, gesture, and movement; games and sports; roleplaying, especially in relation to race, gender, sexual identity, and class; icons and objects; magic, astrology, and witchcraft; birth and funeral rites; nonlinear temporalities; ritual space and place; holidays and calendar customs; animals and environment; food and drink; violence and combat; erotics and sexuality. Each class session will bring together disparate theatre and performance practices by centering on a particular theme. For instance, we might consider Mardi Gras and Carnival in relation to racial impersonation; movement and religious space in Christian and Hindu processional drama; audience participation and community formation in contemporary queer theatre; site-specific performance, ecocriticism, and the history of modern pagan witchcraft; poverty and charity in mumming and other holiday begging customs; mock combat, blood sports, and dramas of ritual sacrifice; and animal masks and puppetry in diverse dance traditions. Culturally specific theatre and performance practices will be analyzed in relation to theoretical work by writers such as Joseph Roach, Diana Taylor, Max Harris, Claire Sponsler, Richard Schechner, Victor Turner, Mikhail Bakhtin, Catherine Bell, Kay Turner, Marina Warner, Johan Huizinga, Brian Sutton-Smith, Carlo Ginzburg, Peter Burke, and Ronald Hutton. Evaluation: active class participation, short weekly response papers, possible brief in-class presentation, research proposal with annotated bibliography, and a final paper.