English | American Drama
L363 | 27661 | Shane Vogel

Shane Vogel

2:30p-3:20p MWF (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

TOPIC:  “Performance and American Modernity, 1850-1950”

This course will explore how performance shaped and responded to the
development of an American modernity in the one hundred years
between 1850 and 1950. In addition to studying dramatic texts and
attending to the theatrical history of the time, we will also look
closely at performance traditions such as minstrelsy and melodrama;
vaudeville and burlesque; concert saloons, cabaret, and nightlife
performances; Tin Pan Alley, blues, and jazz; expressionism and
primitivism. By looking at this diverse range of material, we will
develop an archive of performances through which to consider how
modern American identities and relations have been represented,
elaborated, challenged, and (mis)recognized on the American stage.
Some questions that will guide our inquiry throughout the semester
include: How has performance responded to the rapid and sometimes
violent changes that define modern life? How have performers and
playwrights, audiences and actors, sought to act as subjects rather
than objects of these changes? How are social relations imagined and
reimagined on the American stage? How did performers, writers, and
directors use theatrical innovation and experimentation to address
and redress the conditions of social relations under modernity? As
these questions suggest, this course will ultimately address how
performance—as a subject and a mode of scholarly inquiry—challenges
and extends traditional archives of American modernity.

We will read plays by Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Sophie
Treadwell, Tennessee Williams, Elmer Rice, George Aiken, Dion
Boucicault, and Georgia Douglas Johnson, as well as primary and
secondary materials about American performance culture. Students
will be expected to complete one short midterm paper and one longer
final paper (which will involve some research), as well as weekly
attendance, active participation, and informal assignments
throughout the semester.