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Spring 2020

Spring 2020 Course Descriptions

History of Theatrical Theaory
(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.
Tuesdays, 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Aesthetics in Film - This course is sponsored by Film Studies Certificate Program
(Professor Jerry Carlson)
The movies – that is, narrative feature films – have always been recognized as a powerful medium for storytelling. Indeed, a century of censorship attests to the fears provoked by film’s seductive spell. FSCP 81000 will explore how that spell is created by the many strategies and tactics of storytelling, some shared with other media, others unique to cinema. To do so, we will engage with the history of narrative theory (or, narratology, as Tzvetan Todorov coined it in 1969). What explanatory powers do different theories offer? Our survey will move from Aristotle’s foundational Poetics to pre-cinematic theories of fiction (for example, Henry James), from the Russian Formalists to French high theory (Barthes, Genette, et al.), and from Neo-Formalist explanations (Bordwell) to ideologically positioned interventions from Marxism, psychoanalysis, queer theory or other approaches. We will put each theory in conversation with a pertinent feature film. The range of screenings will be global and diverse in narrative forms. Filmmakers may include, among others, Buster Keaton, Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Agnes Varda, Alain Resnais, Nicolas Roeg, Raul Ruiz, Chantal Akerman, Wong Kar-wai, and Tomas Gutierrez Alea. A number of questions will recur as we explore different theories. What is plot? How can the effects of plotting be explained? What are the options for cinematic narration? What is in common with other media? What is medium specific? How can narratology explain the nature of cinematic authorship? How does cinema create characters? How can it place them in social context or explore their subjectivity as they journey through the plot. The precision of our answers will help explain the spell of the movies in their social, cultural, historical, and emotional impact.
Wednesdays, 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.

Seminar in A Dramatic Genre: The Romantic Movement
(Professor Marvin Carlson)
This course will explore the manifestations of the romantic movement in the European and United Stages theatre in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, focusing upon England, France, Germany and the United States, but including other European countries as well.  Among the topics covered will be romanticism in playwrighting, scenic design, costume, acting, and critical theory. The course will begin with pre-romantic movements, the Sturm und Drang in Germany and the English Gothic movement and will extend to the mid-nineteenth century. Two papers will be required.
Learning goals: To acquaint the students with one of the most important international movements in theatre history and how it affected the various arts of the theatre, including playwrighting, which will lead the students to study a number of seminal texts from a variety of nations.  Both this and the visual elements of the course are aimed to increase the students’ general knowledge of the field.
Mondays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Advanced Theatre Research
(Professor David Savran)
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, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Seminar in Film Studies: Film/Media Theory Strategies of Resistance 

(Professor Amy Herzog)
This course will provide a survey of Film and Media Theory, with a particular focus on activist media and strategies of resistance.  The seminar will be organized historically, spanning Soviet revolutionary films, 1960s newsreel collectives, Third Cinema movements, labor organizing media, activist television, contemporary anti-gentrification media, and digital and social media production. Each session will juxtapose mainstream fictional and non-fictional representations with contemporaneous media produced by independent resistance groups, as well as studies of the labor conditions and economic structures that shape the media industries during that period. Each student will research their own “constellation” of historical media texts, and media-based creative projects will be encouraged.

Questions of intersectionality and power will be core to this course. What formal strategies have emerged at different historical moments, and toward what ends? How do industry structures, distribution networks, and exhibition contexts impact the meaning of media texts? Who performs what labor within the media technology industries, and how is access determined? What historical forces impact the evolution of film and media theories? How can spectatorship theorized in relation to diverse media audiences and transforming sites of consumption?

Readings and screenings will include readings and media works by Sergei Eisenstein, Walter Benjamin, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Third World Newsreel, Chicana Por Mi Raza Media Collective, Racquel Gates, DIVA TV, Electronic Disturbance Theater, Mariame Kaba, Cardi B, and Lisa Nakamura. Student research projects will culminate in a final paper and multimedia dossier. Project proposals and field notes will be shared via a course website, and findings will be presented in class.
Thursdays, 11:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.

History of the American Theatre: Theatre in 1970's New York
(Professor Hillary Miller)
This course will trace the transformation of New York City’s theatrical landscape during what has been mythologized as one of the city’s most turbulent decades, the 1970s. We will focus on the institutionalization of radical 1960s theatrical formations during a period in which the logic of scarcity reorganized the city’s cultural spheres. How did artists, communities, and governmental figures respond and adapt to the changing sites of performance and conditions of a municipality in crisis? And how have theater artists represented those changes on the contemporary stage?

After we evaluate the existing historiographical narratives of 1970s U.S. theatre, we will explore a series of case studies including Ellen Stewart’s La MaMa E.T.C., Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, Vinnette Carroll’s Urban Arts Corps, the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater, and Jonathan Ringkamp and Geraldine Fitzgerald’s Everyman Street Theater Company. Playwrights may include Micki Grant, Julie Bovasso, Tom Eyen, Miguel PiƱero, Maria Irene Fornes, Sam Shepard, Adrienne Kennedy, Jessica Hagedorn, Amiri Baraka, Robert Patrick, Ed Bullins, Dominique Morisseau, and Joseph A. Walker. We will ask how the changing spatial and social organization of New York’s theatrical communities informed the thematic and formal choices playwrights made—and how the economic crisis and austerity ideologies shaped audience expectations of performance across the city.

Historical readings on the development of “downtown” theatre in New York, as well as readings addressing the emergence of the “neoliberal city” will aid us as we conceptualize theatre as a social practice and part of municipal processes. A series of methodological queries will underpin our explorations. What research strategies facilitate the comparative study of community-based, neighborhood performance and centralized theatrical formations? How have theatre historians conceptualized the relationship between competing “locals”—neighborhoods, audiences, and theatres? Our readings will provide both historical and socio-cultural contexts for theatre and performance practices in urban centers during the 1970s and beyond.
Thursdays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.