Brief Description of Course: After nearly two decades of its absence, public theatre returned to the London stage in 1660. What followed--depending on your perspective--was either a profoundly productive and influential period of artistic development, or decisive proof that a golden age of English drama had ended in the Commonwealth. Our course will push back against this latter claim, surveying a series of texts that will also introduce our class to the major trends and theories concerning drama during the period. We’ll go further though, enacting key scenes in class, and selectively watching film and television versions of these often neglected plays in order to bring them back to life. In short, we’ll stage our own 1660 through celluloid and the student body, returning these texts to use. As we’ll see too, the stage was a vital place around which people of different social ranks came to collectively imagine and perform their world, its promise and perils, its fantasies and realities. Topics covered include forms of power (institutional and personal), gender and sexuality, money and finance, sentiment and sensibility, nation, empire, and the transatlantic imagination. We will consider a variety of genres as well, from stalwarts like comedy and tragedy, to experiments in mock heroic and Oriental and Gothic drama. Finally, in strategically viewing and play-acting scenes, we’ll get a better sense of the mechanics of performance, which was itself undergoing important changes in its practice and theory. How was drama shifting and being reinterpreted? What sorts of innovations and anxieties shaped the period’s theatre? What do we make of spectacle in an age before TV and blockbuster films?
Required Reading: Selected readings may include Wycherly, The Country Wife; Southerne, Oroonoko; Congreve, The Way of the World; Gay, The Beggar’s Opera; Lillo, The London Merchant; Sheridan, The School for Scandal; Lewis, The Castle Spectre and some lesser known pantomime or melodramatic works.
First Three Authors/Texts: Most likely Wycherly, The Country Wife, Dryden, All for Love, some brief contemporaneous critical works.
Method of Evaluation: Participation (10%); quizzes (10%); 2 essays (20% each); two term tests (20% each).
Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Descriptions.
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