English | American Drama
L363 | 30421 | Shane Vogel

Shane Vogel

30421 9:30a-10:45a TR (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 roughly one hundred
years between 1830 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; cabaret and nightlife performances; realism and
expressionism. By looking at this diverse range of material, we will
develop an archive of performances through which to consider how
modern American identities and social 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
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 T. D. Rice, Anna Cora Mowatt, George Aiken,
Angelina Weld Grimké, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Sophie
Treadwell, Lynn Riggs, Tennessee Williams, and Elmer Rice, as well
as additional primary and secondary materials about American
performance culture.
Students will be expected to attend class regularly and participate
actively in readings and discussions throughout the semester, as
well as complete one short essay, one longer research paper, and a
number of formal response papers.