English | Modern Drama: English, Irish, American, and Post-Colonial
L366 | 2029 | Wiles


11:15a-12:05p MWF (30) 3 cr

Theater in England and in the countries of the former British Empire has
had a social purpose in the modern era.  Especially since World War II,
playwrights have used a variety of styles--realism, absurdism, and the
techniques of political art--to question the established order and often
to agitate for political chance.  In this course we will examine English
society and some of its post-colonial regions through modern and recent
drama.  Some of these plays deal with specific issues and causes, like the
decline of the British Empire and racial injustice as England becomes more
multicultural in the post-imperial age.  Some playwrights have taken a
longer view and survey the soul of modern men and women instead of
specifying their political identity, or at least this has been said of
absurdist dramatists like Beckett and Pinter. However, we will also
attempt to place these dramatists' philosophical concerns and theatrical
antics within a context of recent cultural trends and social history.

The class will be conducted as a combination of short lectures,
discussions, and dramatic projects--these will consist of reading and/or
acting scenes aloud and giving analytic commentary.  You will be graded on
class participation work as well as on the written work, two essays (5-10
pp.) and two exams.

Themes include conflicts between classes and races as well as the battle
of the sexes in modern culture; the decline of empire and new artists
emerging in the former colonies; and Britain's changing role from being a
seat of power (sending out "cultural missionaries" to the world), to
becoming a more international society (and attracting people of various
races from the former colonies back to England).  Playwrights will include
John Osborne, David Hare, Samuel Beckett, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, and
dramatists from Ireland and Africa.  We will also view some related films,
including MY BEAUTIFUL LAUNDRETTE and THE CRYING GAME.