Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG330H1S L0101

ENG330H1S  L0101   M3-5, W3
Early Drama
Instructor: Professor Matt Sergi
Office Location: JHB, Room 812
Email: matthew.sergi@utoronto.ca

Brief Description of Course: In our course, we will search for the earliest examples of dramatic texts in the English language. In searching, we will have to expand our understanding of what “dramatic” can mean, then and now, in order to determine what early texts count as examples. In our search for drama — that most raw and public art form — we will necessarily explore the cultures, languages, archives, and histories of Britain in its first thousand years (roughly c.449-1485). We will survey the earliest known examples of texts from England that call for physicalized action in performance, or for real-time enactment of narrative, or for characterization, or for more than one named speaker in dialogue, or for public showings in distinct playing spaces, and so forth. None of these criteria will sufficiently define the borders of the genre we know as “drama,” then or now (the term “drama” certainly wasn’t used then, for reasons we will discuss). In our hopeless search for origins, however, we will dig through the very idea of drama at its most fundamental levels and develop a broader and deeper understanding of what dramatic texts can do.

 The first four weeks of our course will involve thorough, intensive training in how to read and comprehend Middle English (i.e. English as it was recorded from the years 1066 to 1485). Most of our course readings will be in untranslated Middle English — indeed, since some of our course readings have never been translated into present-day English, we will do some translation work ourselves. There is a significant discussion and attendance portion of this course mark. Be prepared to engage actively during every class session..


Required Reading: A series of plays and performance texts (nearly all anonymous) spanning the first eight centuries of English history, including: ¬Mankind, Robin Hood and the Sherriff of Nottingham, The Pride of Life, the biblical plays of Chester and York, and the mummings and disguisings of John Lydgate.

First Three Authors/Texts: TBA.

Method of Instruction: lectures and interactive discussions.

Method of Evaluation: Translation/Edition Assignment 17.5%, Staging/Performance-Based Analysis Essay 22.5%, In-Class Comprehension Questions 20%, Middle English Comprehension Quiz 15%, Engagement and Participation in class discussions 15%, Actual Attendance in at least 21 of our 24 class sessions 10% (20/24 = 5%, fewer than 20=0%)

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