Caitlin R Hansen
Critical interpretation and meaning in plays, representing a variety of types and periods.
The reading of drama demands a complexity unique to the genre, since a play must be read not only as literature, but as a performable work and as a representation of the culture which produced it, and the series of cultures (including our own) which has allowed it to endure. This course will attempt to approach the study of the dramatic text accordingly, from a variety of angles, and through different types of assignments.
Beginning with several Medieval mystery plays, and continuing through the centuries with a focus ultimately weighted on the twentieth century, we will take as a general framework for thinking about the works, and about the theatre and its development more generally, this idea behind the course title. Whether we consider Joyce's notion of history as a "nightmare from which [we are] trying to awake," or the idea, articulated by Septimus in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia that "we shed as we pick up, like travelers who must carry everything in their arms," the presence of that which came before looms over all literary works, but is perhaps especially significant in the drama. The question of the Past affects our reading of play texts both externally, as a consideration of the progressive development of the genre and its dependence upon and conflict with tradition and precedent, and as a specific demand for research and education to understand a play's meaning and context, and as a thematic concern within the plays themselves, as characters work to navigate and negotiate their own histories and the histories of others.
Course Texts: Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Gay, John. The Beggar's Opera. Ibsen. A Doll's House. Brecht, Bertolt. The Threepenny Opera. Beckett, Samuel. Endgame ISBN: 0-8021-5024-1 Soyinka, Wole. Death and the King's Horseman. Stoppard, Tom. Arcadia ISBN: 0-571-16933-3 Kushner, Tony. Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches * Course Reader
Student learning goals
General method of instruction
Class assignments and grading
As mentioned above, students will be required to complete a variety of assignments in order to address various aspects of the study of drama. English 244 meets the university W requirement, which means that students must produce 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, that must undergo significant revision. These may take the form of two 5-7 page papers, or one longer one. (For more specific W-course criteria, please see http://www.washington.edu/uaa/gateway/advising/degreeplanning/writreqs.php ). Besides these papers, course work may include brief reading quizzes, along with projects addressing technical issues of staging plays (like costume and set design), possible research work and/or group presentations, reviews of local productions and performances of scenes (no acting skill required).