Fall 2017 Course Descriptions
Theatre Research and Bibliography
(Professor Erika Lin)
This course will provide an overview of the profession and how one joins the many conversations taking place in the profession. 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. We will attempt to plan a trip to one of the theatre archives in New York, and you will be responsible for conducting and writing up archival research. Factors that affect final course grades include: informed participation in class discussion and an in-class exam written on the scheduled exam date; frequent written exercises; and several class presentations, most of them connected to a final term paper based on archival research.
Thursdays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Contextual and Intertextual Studies in Drama
(Professor Marvin Carlson)
This course will be concerned with texts drawn from world drama throughout 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 of both the generally accepted canon and of non-canonical works, including both pre- and post-1900 drama. Paper requirement: two 8-10 page papers, one at mid-term, the other during finals week.
Mondays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Seminar in A Dramatic Genre: Critical Perspectives on U.S. Musical Theatre
(Professor David Savran)
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 The Merry Widow (1907) and 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, Street Scene, 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.
Tuesdays, 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Seminar in Theatre Theory: Extending Queer: Theory and Performance / Theorizing Performance
(Professor Sean Edgecomb)
This seminar presents a comprehensive and pluralist study of queer theory as it may be applied to critically analyze performance, both theatrical and lived. Moreover, this course will consider queerness (as theory/identity, performance and way of being/doing) as it continues to develop in a global context. A deep engagement with text that is often dense, esoteric, and even contradictory will be essential. The course is divided into three sections: 1) First Wave: Foundations. 2) Second Wave: Expansions. 3) Globalization and Transexions. It begins with an investigation of queer theory through its post-Foucauldian origins, including the foundational theories of Butler, Sedgwick and Berlant and considers early queer performers from gay liberation onward. The second unit traces what Ann Pelligrini deems queer theory’s “affective turn,” considering the anti-identitarian and minoritarian work of key scholars including Muñoz, Freeman, Dolan and Halberstam. Theatre and performance artists considered will be selected from contemporary North American locations and in regional contexts. The third unit of the course introduces a second wave of queer theory, focusing on a global approach to queer and trans performance that traces queer theory’s recent non-Anglophone developments in places such as Southeast Asia, France, the Balkans, Brazil, China, Australia, and beyond. Artists selected will represent a wide and diverse group of LGBTQ perspectives in a global context. Final evaluation will be based on active class discussion, a 30-minute in-class oral presentation on an assigned topic and a final 20-page research paper on a preapproved queer artist (in terms determined in the seminar) that applies at least two of the theorists studied in class. Students will be encouraged to independently engage with queer performances taking place throughout NYC.
Tuesdays, 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Theatre and Society: Transatlantic Theatre and Performance: Golden Age Spain and Pre-Conquest/Colonial Latin America
(Professor Jean Graham-Jones)
This course focuses on theatre and performance produced in Spain and Latin America during, primarily, the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Rather than treating Latin America as a colonial extension of the Spanish-speaking metropolis, we will study the two regions through their nearly constant (albeit often conflicted) dialogue with each other. To do this we will discuss, apply, and critique the sociocultural, political, linguistic, literary, theatrical, and performance theories of coloniality. After a transatlantic introduction to the period, we will first look at theatre / performance practices in place in both regions before the arrival of the Spanish to the Americas and then proceed to an examination of Spain's "Golden Age" of theatre as well as colonial theatre and performance in Latin America. We will read autos sacramentales in addition to entremeses and comedias from both sides of the Atlantic; study accounts of Corpus Christi processions in Madrid and Cuzco in addition to reconstructions of pre-Hispanic performance-scripts in Meso-America and Canada; and seek out specific examples of cultural encounter, such as the translation of a Spanish evangelical drama into Nahuatl or a colonial loa intended for a madrileño audience. Among the authors whose texts we will study are Rojas, Lope de Rueda, Lope de Vega, Tirso de Molina, Calderón de la Barca, Cervantes, Ruiz de Alarcón, sor Marcela de San Félix, and sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Evaluation will be based on in-class participation, online Blackboard discussions, small-group activities, and a final research paper (15-20 pages).
Wednesdays, 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Aesthetics of Film: Form and the Aesthetic Construction of Race
(Professor Racquel Gates)
This course emphasizes a formal approach to viewing, interpreting, and critically engaging with film. We will organize the semester around a single provocation. How do the formal aspects of film (and media) make blackness comprehensible? In other words, how did audiences learn to recognize blackness, in a visual as well as in a thematic sense, beginning with early cinema? And, what are the formal elements that have since become synonymous with blackness on screen? In order to answer these questions, we will examine a wide array of film and media texts and analyze how mise-en-scene, narrative, cinematography, editing, sound, and genre invented the codes of cinematic blackness. We will also look at the ways that Black filmmakers and performers have used aesthetics to directly interrogate and challenge the limiting tropes typically associated with the black image on screen. We will use the eleventh edition of David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s textbook, Film Art: An Introduction, as the primer for the course, and we will also read several other books that explicitly address the relationship between aesthetics and race. These include Richard Dyer’s White, Nicole Fleetwood’s Troubling Vision: Performance, Visuality, and Blackness, Krista Thompson’s Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice, and Phillip Brian Harper’s Abstractionist Aesthetics: Artistic Form and Social Critique in African American Culture. Screenings will consist of a mix of classic and newer titles, films produced in Hollywood as well as those made by independent filmmakers. Some of these include Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915), Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming, 1934), Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Stanley Kramer, 1967), Daughters of the Dust (Julie Dash, 1990), Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (Spike Lee, 2014), and Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016). Students will complete weekly reading reports and a final paper on the topic of their choice.
Tuesdays, 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m.
Seminar in Film Studies: The City and Film
(Professor William Boddy)
Since the invention of cinema in the late 19th century, filmmakers across the globe have turned to the modern city both as a narrative setting and dramatic subject for films in a variety of modes and genres. This course examines a range of films from the beginnings of the silent era to the present, offering visions of urban life both utopian and horrific. The course explores how filmmakers, artists, professional planners, governments, and corporations have used film and visual media to respond to changes in urban life shaped by technology, bureaucracy, and industrialization; immigration and national identity; race, class, gender, and economic inequality; politics, conformity, and urban anomie; and economic development, displacement, sprawl, and environmental degradation. The course assumes no previous experience in film studies and welcomes students from a variety of disciplines.
Wednesdays, 11:45 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.