Department of English

University of Toronto

ENG341H1S L0101

ENG341H1S L0101 TR 3-6
Post Modern Drama 
Instructor:
M. Sergi

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 1950, finding realism and spectacle increasingly redundant, were thus those who asked “What is drama? What is unique about it? What can it do that film and television cannot?” and who, in response, “stripped [drama] 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 Post-Modern Drama 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 — in forms that are often revolutionary, rebellious, and silly; in content that is often challenging, confrontational, and disturbing. All the plays on our syllabus are not only written after 1945, but also depict the turbulences of world history after 1945 — most are set primarily in that 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. This is an intensive course, condensing the usual 12 weeks of course content into 6 weeks. Be prepared to work and read intensively.

Required Reading: Plays by Samuel Beckett, Lorraine Hansberry, Wole Soyinka, Caryl Churchill, Ntozake Shange, Tomson Highway, Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, and more.

Method of Instruction: Guided discussions with lecture modules.

Method of Evaluation: Live performance response paper (20%),  extra-verbal analysis essay or performance piece (25%), extra-verbal applied fundamentals quiz (10%), in-class comprehension questions (20%), engagement and participation in class discussions of readings (15%), actual attendance in at least 9 of our 11 class sessions (10%, fewer than 9=0%).

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