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Prospectus

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Political Drama

Course
2012-2013

Tag(s)

PA, HI, GC

Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.

Description

Homo Politicus on Stage: Introduction to Political Drama

“Power comes only with the death of politics”, one of Wole Soyinka’s characters reflects in A Play of Giants; and that is where a certain kind of theater begins, one might add. In this course we will read and discuss some fascinating twentieth-century plays that engage with political themes – portraying not so much those famous historical individuals whose grand visions shaped the course of events (although a Hitler or some thinly disguised African leaders do occasionally grace the stage), but common people who played a role (or hoped they did) in events ranging from the French Revolution to the war in Afghanistan. Our interest in shedding light on events as diverse as dictatorship in Chile or in Romania, or on the psychological intricacies of obsession with power, will be on equal footing with an examination of the plays in their generic specificity, tracing lineages and influences among various playwrights. Our map of twentieth-century drama will thus include Brecht’s epic theater, the theater of the absurd, the theater of cruelty, and various forms of what some critics identified as “post-dramatic” theater. In addition to the plays listed below, students will draw their ideas for presentations from theoretical essays on the dramatic genre, reviews, and other critical literature.

Primary texts include:

  • Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

  • Jean Genet, The Balcony

  • Peter Weiss, Marat/Sade

  • Yukio Mishima, My Friend Hitler

  • Caryl Churchill, Mad Forest

  • Wole Soyinka, A Play of Giants

  • Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden

  • Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul

  • Tom Stoppard, Rock’n’Roll

Course Objectives

The aims of the course are twofold:

  • familiarize students with some major political plays of the twentieth century and the events that constitute their historical background

  • introduce students to a technical vocabulary and aesthetic history that allows them to discuss such texts competently and with elegance.

Mode of Instruction

Classes will typically be opened by a student presentation introducing and contextualizing the text(s) for the day, followed by a discussion involving the students, partly based on their written responses to the readings. A thorough engagement with the readings, a thoughtful manner of presenting and discussing one’s ideas in class, as well as respect for our differences of opinion are crucial for the optimal unfolding of the course.

Assessment

Evaluation will be based on short written responses (6 webposts about the plays) on which students will be asked to elaborate in class discussion, an oral presentation including synthesis of webposts, and a research essay.

Assessment: In-class participation and six webposts
Percentage: 40%
Deadline: Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7 (Sign-up)

Assessment: Oral presentation
Percentage: 25%
Deadline: Weeks 1 – 7 (Sign-up)

Assessment: Final research essay (2500 words)
Percentage: 35%
Deadline: Week 8

Literature

Required literature:

Bertolt Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui
Jean Genet, The Balcony
Peter Weiss, Marat/Sade
Yukio Mishima, My Friend Hitler
Caryl Churchill, Mad Forest
Wole Soyinka, A Play of Giants
Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden
Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul
Tom Stoppard, Rock’n’Roll

Contact Information

Please address any course-related questions to corina@lucresearch.nl.

Weekly Overview

Week 1 Introduction to 20th-century drama; a major influence: Brecht’s epic theater. Play: Brecht, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui

Week 2 Brecht’s legacy transformed: the theater of the absurd. Play: Jean Genet, The Balcony

Week 3 Brecht’s legacy transformed (continued): distanciation and raw experience? Artaud, the “theater of cruelty” (excerpt from The Theatre and Its Double). Play: Peter Weiss, The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade

Weeks 4-7: “Post-dramatic” theater. Plays: Yukio Mishima, My Friend Hitler; Caryl Churchill, Mad Forest; Wole Soyinka, A Play of Giants; Ariel Dorfman, Death and the Maiden; Tony Kushner, Homebody/Kabul; Tom Stoppard, Rock’n’Roll.

Preparation for first session

Students will most benefit from the class-experience if they read at least some of the plays over spring break. At a minimum, they should come to the first day of class prepared to talk about Bertolt Brecht’s The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui and Jean Genet’s The Balcony.