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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Herbert Blau
ENGL 444
Seattle Campus

Dramatic Literature: Special Studies

Study of a particular dramatic tradition (such as expressionism or the absurd theatre) or character (the clown) or technique (play-within-a-play, the neoclassical three unities). Topics vary.

Class description

Drama on Trial: The Self-Conscious Stage Our subject is the double meaning (and various shadings) of the subtitle, which has put the drama on trial, even as the drama, from the classical world on, has always distrusted the theater, and its power of illusion. There is also a long tradition in which the theater, more or less conscious of its reality as theater, makes a point of it in performance, refusing to be thought of as mere appearance, or misleadingly confused with life. Or, as Bertolt Brecht once said, theatering it all down. At the same time there has been an emphasis on the idea of the self in the center of the stage, though that gets mixed up with the role of the actor (and in turn with the question of what acting is, or should be). These tendencies, not mutually exclusive, have become so obsessive and sophisticated in certain advanced forms of theater, that one is likely to find no stage at all in the conventional sense, and sometimes even, no dramatic text. What remains instead is only theater, and instead of a character, only the self or fictions of the self; or in the breaking down and dispersion of the fictions, the appearance in the actor of the absence of a self. Or as in recent theory (from deconstruction to queer) the notion of a self as, ideologically, nothing more than an aberration of history.

We shall discuss these unnerving (or awakening?) issues, while reading through, and conceptually staging, a spectrum of modernist and contemporary texts, from Pirandello and Brecht through Beckett and Genet to Suzan Lori-Parks and Sarah Kane.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Herbert Blau
Date: 05/17/2009