Department of English

University of Toronto

3000 Series Course Descriptions

Acting Theory and Practice before Stanislavsky
T. Robinson

Course Description:
The curious process of an actor's transformation—the means and methods by which a player communicates character and feeling on stage—was a major problem that captivated top eighteenth- and nineteenth-century minds. British, German, French, Dutch, and Italian thinkers sought to understand this process and to probe its representational limits. This course examines key documents within a vast body of literature produced on acting theory and practice in the two centuries prior to Stanislavsky—a time when the figure of the actor was a central visual object in an already visual culture. We will read acting theory alongside theatre reviews, illustrations, representative dramas, and criticism. We will examine the stage practices of actors such as Thomas Betterton, David Garrick, Sarah Siddons, John Philip Kemble, Edmund Kean, and Ellen Terry. We will also consider shifting histories of affect and emotion, in addition to concerns such as embodiment, visual culture, celebrity culture, theatre history, aesthetics, and politics. What, we’ll ask, can literature focused on the ontology of the actor tell us about the profound cultural and epistemological impact of the actor’s art during this period?

Course Reading List:
Primary readings may include selections from the following (with foreign language texts available in translation): Charles Gildon, The Life of Mr. Thomas Betterton; Aaron Hill, The Prompter; Francesco Riccoboni, L'art du théâtre; John Hill, Essay on the Art of Acting; Samuel Foote, A Treatise on the Passions, So Far as They Regard the Stage; Roger Pickering, Reflections upon Theatrical Expression in Tragedy; Denis Diderot, Paradoxe sur le comédien; Johann Jakob Engel, Ideen zu Einer Mimik, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Regeln für Schauspieler; Heinrich von Kleist, Über das Marionettentheater; Sarah Siddons, Remarks on the Character of Lady Macbeth; Johannes Jelgerhuis, selections; Henry Siddons, Practical Illustrations of Rhetorical Gesture and Acting; Leigh Hunt, selections; William Hazlitt, selections; Charles Lamb, On the Tragedies of Shakespeare; François-Joseph Talma, Mémoires de Lekain; François Delsarte, on the Delsarte System, among other possibilities. Secondary criticism may include work by Lisa A. Freeman, Jonathan Mulrooney, Gill Perry, Joseph R. Roach, Lynn M. Voskuil, Jed Wentz, Shearer West, and others.

Course Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
Attendance and Informed Class Discussion 15%; Archival Research Exercise 15%; In-Class Seminar Presentation with Handout 15%; Final Project Proposal with Annotated Bibliography 10%; Final Project/Research Paper 45%.

Term: F-TERM (September 2020 to December 2020) 
Date/Time: 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm, Thursdays
(SYNCHRONOUS), via teleconferencing.  Link to be sent to students directly by the instructor.

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ENG3301HF (COURSE ADDED May 13, 2020)
The Social Life of Feeling: Literature and Affect of the 18th Century
A. E.  Hernandez

Course Description:

In popular discourse, the eighteenth century is often referred to as an “Age of Reason”—yet, and strangely, for some time scholars have known that this was also an “Age of Feeling.” Indeed, while contemporaneous discourses concerning sentiment have long been considered vital to the period, we might also consider many of the key discoveries in epistemology, aesthetics, political theory, and economics (all central to our broad conception of Enlightenment) as fundamentally concerned with the way feeling underwrites our experience of the world. This course explores the social life of feeling in the eighteenth century, arguing that any analysis of the rhetorics, theories, and modes of expression through which affect is mediated functions also to assess a moment’s assumed possibilities, aspirations, and contradictions. In comedies and satiric epistles, tragedies and lyrics, irony and sincerity, Britons imagined what a changing social sphere might entail for the passions, constructing, testing, and reflecting an uneasily shifting set of social relations. How then does literary form shape and express the social life of feeling? Mindful of important distinctions between “history of emotions” and “affect theory,” our text selections will venture answers to this question, as well as traverse critical paradigms so as to explore literature and affect in the eighteenth century.

Course Reading List:
Selected Primary Readings may include:

Defoe, A Journal of a Plague Year
Finch, "The Spleen"
Hume, A Treatise of Human Nature
Rochester, A Satyr against Reason and Mankind and other poems
Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments
Sterne, A Sentimental Journey
Swift, letters from Journal to Stella and selected poems
Secondary criticism on affect and emotion.

Method of Evaluation and Course Requirements:
Weekly Response Posts (20%) Class Presentation (20%) Mock Conference Paper (20%) Final Paper (40%)

Term:  F-Term (Fall Term: September - December 2020)
Date/Time: Monday, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm,  3 hours
(SYNCHRONOUS), via teleconferencing.  Link to be sent to students directly by the instructor.

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