This course introduces students to key concepts and critical frameworks pertaining to theatre studies, by way of close reading and in-depth interpretations of several plays (all but one were premiered in the 20th century, plus one 21st century play), alongside three important forms (and/or movements) of theatre introduced in the twentieth century: Martin Esslin’s theatre of the absurd, Antonin Artaud’s theatre of cruelty and Bertolt Brecht’s epic theatre.
The theme this year is the making of modern self. We will look at the ways in which dramatic texts illustrate and articulate various models of modern self (for instance, the rational, progressive self that is advocated in Brecht’s body of work). Students will learn to consider theatre to be a laboratory for understanding the making and unmaking of self, identity, and subjectivity. Importantly, we will also examine the potential danger and/or insufficiency in each of these models of modern self.
Topics include but are not limited to theatre and drama, performance, spectacle and spectators, catharsis, chorus, humour, tragedy, comedy, theatre of the absurd, theatre of cruelty, epic theatre. Different conceptions of modern self will be introduced in response to the underlying theme through which these topics will be threaded together as the course progresses.
The primary objective of this course is to provide students with vocabulary and terminology for understanding the art of drama, studying theatre and analysing performance.
Students will be given an opportunity to design a performance of their own (in small groups) and stage it as a skit or short play during the final two sessions of the course.
The course consists of three contact hours per week (Monday, 2:30 pm - 5:20 pm). Each session will be a combination of lecture, discussion, tutorial, and workshop.
There are four assessment components, as follows:
- Attendance and participation (10%)
- Mid-term assignment (20%)
- 10-minute skit or short play performance (group project) (30%)
- Final critical paper (40%)
Written assignments must be submitted via Turnitin. Detailed guidelines and marking rubrics will be made available on Moodle.
Reading materials will be made available on Moodle, which include various essays, excerpts from Brecht on Theatre (1977), Antonin Artaud’s Theatre and Its Double (1938), Martin Esslin’s The Theatre of the Absurd (1961), and Melissa Bruder’s The Practical Handbook for the Actor (1986). In addition, the following plays will be studied throughout the course:
Samuel Beckett. Endgame (1957) and Krapp’s Last Tape (1958).
Bertolt Brecht. The Caucasian Chalk Circle (1948).
Caryl Churchill. Top Girls (1982).
Susan Glaspell. Trifles (1916).
David Henry Hwang. Chinglish (2012).
Harold Pinter. Betrayal (1978).
Peter Shaffer. Equus (1973).