English | Studies in Modern Drama
L775 | 28104 | Vogel

L775  28104   VOGEL (#5)
Studies in Modern Drama

12:20p – 3:20p W


This seminar on American drama and performance in the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries will be focused by an inquiry into the concept
of value—cultural, economic, moral, libidinal—and its relationship
to American genealogies of performance and theatre history. Among
the questions we will ask are: How have playwrights and performers
explored the contingencies of value? How might notions of exchange,
surplus, fetishism, and transvaluation contribute to an
understanding of performance? How are normative values produced or
undermined through performance? How are some people, objects, acts,
and desires endowed with special meaning or worth, while others are
rendered meaningless or worthless? And finally: what is the value of
performance and drama in an increasingly mediatized society and in
an academy where interdisciplinarity is viewed with equal parts
celebration and suspicion?

This course is neither a survey of American drama nor a theatre
history course, though the plays we read will offer a good
introduction to American drama, and the historical context will be
important. We will examine key dramatic and performance texts
alongside theories of value. Reading may include theoretical work by
Marx, Nietzsche, Freud, Mauss, Bourdieu, Barbara Herrenstein Smith,
Lindon Barrett, Deleuze and Guattari, Bataille, Derrida, Hardt and
Negri, and Foucault, and dramatic work by T.D. Rice, Dion
Bouccicault, Anna Cora Mowatt, Angelina Weld Grimkč, Elmer Rice,
Sophie Treadwell, Martha Graham, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams,
Amiri Baraka, Charles Ludlum, Split Britches, August Wilson, Suzan-
Lori Parks, Paula Vogel, Sarah Ruhl, Lynn Nottage, and Bill T.
Jones. In addition to drama, we will also consider minstrelsy,
dance, performance art, musical theatre, and performances of race,
sexuality, and gender.

Reading will be heavy; no prior knowledge of critical theory or
theatre/performance studies is required or expected (though it will
help!). Assignments will include weekly response papers (2-3 pages)
and a substantial research paper (20-25 pages). The course will also
include discussions of writing and research methods.