Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG341H1S L0101

ENG341H1S L0101 MW 9-12
Modern Drama after WWII
M. Sergi
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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 (for better or worse) than live theatre ever could, and that can produce spectacular effects of which live theatre could never dream. The most innovative theatre-makers after 1945, 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 will survey play texts and productions since 1946 that have, in one way or another, explored and exploited drama’s capacity for raw, challenging, real, live presence. All the plays on our syllabus are not only written after 1945, but also depict world history after 1945—most are set primarily in that time period, while others jump playfully in and out of that period—so many of our lectures and discussions will involve historical contexts. Above all, students will learn how to read, interpret, contextualize, and analyze the performance- and staging-oriented elements of these dramatic texts—that is, precisely those elements that make these texts dramatic (and thus different from other literary texts). Using Mary Overlie’s Six Viewpoints as a rough guide, students will develop the elementary practical understanding of live performance and staging necessary to imagine and sustain such readings, interpretations, and analyses. 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: A Raisin in the Sun (Lorraine Hansberry); Clybourne Park (Bruce Norris); The Rez Sisters (Tomson Highway); The Shipment (Young Jean Lee); Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell); Arcadia (Tom Stoppard); Happy Days (Samuel Beckett); and an array of about six other plays TBA. Students will also be required to attend one live performance (TBA) in Toronto.

Method of Evaluation: Extra-verbal response paper (25%); critical analysis essay (30%);  in-class comprehension questions (20%); engagement and participation in class discussions (15%); actual attendance of at least 80% of scheduled class sessions (10%).

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