Department of English

University of Toronto


ENG341H1F   L0101    MW10-1
Modern Drama Since WWII
Instructor: Prof. Matt Sergi 

Office Location: Jackman Humanities Building, Room 812

Brief Description of Course: The last seventy years brought us technologies (TV, film, internet) that can present naturalistic scenes of human drama in more intimate ways than live theatre ever could, and that can produce spectacular effects of which live theatre never dreamed. The most innovative theatre-makers, finding realism and spectacle increasingly redundant, were thus those who asked “What is the theatre? What is unique about it? What can it do that film and television cannot?” and who, in response, “stripped [theatre] of all that is not essential to it, [and] revealed to us not only the backbone of the medium, but also the deep riches which lie in the very nature of the art-form.”

Our lectures and discussions on Modern Drama since World War II will survey English-language play texts and productions since 1945 that have, in one way or another, explored drama’s capacity for raw, challenging, live and real presence. We will also discuss the ways that drama has depicted and digested the last seventy years of history: our play readings are not arranged by their date of publication, but (roughly) by the year in which each play’s action is set. Every week, we’ll read two plays (one short and one long); class sessions will focus on the form and content of those plays and on the history surrounding them. Students will also attend (as a requirement for the course) and write on Jess Thom and Touretteshero’s Backstage in Biscuitland at the Harbourfront Centre, 25-28 May.

After completing this course, students will have received sufficient training to speak knowledgeably about contemporary drama, to use publicly accessible forums to write critically and intelligently about contemporary drama, to seek out and understand live performance in Toronto, and to retain/remember some major dramatic texts of the last seventy years and the history that surrounds them.

Required Reading: Plays by Samuel Beckett, Caryl Churchill, Wole Soyinka, Tom Stoppard, John Cameron Mitchell, Lorraine Hansberry, Bruce Norris, Young Jean Lee, Tomson Highway, Charles Mee, the Neo-Futurists, and others. Students will be required to attend two live performances at theatres in Toronto.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA

Method of Instruction: Open-ended lectures and active student-driven discussions and debates,

Method of Evaluation: Two short written assignments, two in-class quizzes, attendance, and active participation in discussion.

Link to ARTSCI Calendar Course Description.

Link to ARTSCI Summer Timetable with Room Allocations.

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