L399 1983 WILES
Junior Honors Seminar

1:00p- 2:15p TR (15) 3 cr.



This course will emphasize plays as drama, although we will also consider the theatrical embodiment of a playwright's text in several ways, including watching plays in live and filmed productions, writing reviews, even trying our hand at writing a short dialogue, monologue, play scene, or a short play. We will also read several essays about political drama and performance by noted critics and theater practitioners, and read one book of this sort, The Empty Space by the English director Peter Brook. Our main reading will be plays by contemporary dramatists such as Caryl Churchill (Cloud Nine, Mad Forest), Tony Kushner (Angels in America, Slavs), and Athol Fugard (Master Harold and the Boys, Sizwe Bansi is Dead, Valley Song). I will emphasize the strand of drama that depicts social, political and public issues in this course, and highlight the modern stage. However, I want us to read one classical play from the origins of political theater as well, Sophocles' Antigone. Besides these plays which I will ask all seminar members to read and discuss together in the first half of the course, I expect each of you to choose another play from this repertoire to make a report on to the class, and I want all of us to read each other's plays chosen for student reports, too. There are dozens of writers and plays to considerBI would suggest Brian Friel, Tom Stoppard, Wole Soyinka, Arthur Miller, a number of modern British playwrights (sometimes called "the angry young men," although some are women, and the term could extend from its origins in the 1950s to the present). I hope that some of these playwrights are familiar to you, because they are the biggest names in postwar (post-WWII) English language drama. However, don't be intimidated if you don't recognize many of these playwrightsBnot every English major studies drama, but if you take this course, you will have an opportunity to encounter some of the best of modern drama.

I will conduct the course as a seminar. In the first half of the semester, we will read and discuss literary works and critical writings from the common reading list. In the third quarter of the course, students will present reports on individually chosen plays. In the last quarter of the course, students will present their seminar papers or projects. I will talk about ways to plan and research a seminar paper/project from the first week of the course, but you will prepare it on your own, and it should serve as preliminary work for the preparation of your Honors Thesis in the senior year. All students in the seminar will do some work designed to develop skills and methods for independent research that will help them with their Honors thesis.

We will do a fair amount of short writing prior to the final paper/project, including some attempts at playwriting. As I noted above, this is intended to be good practice for everyone, including me, but it is particularly geared to the students in L399 who will prepare to write a creative writing thesis. Other kinds of short writing which I will assign in the opening weeks include a play analysis project and a review of a play seen live in the theater. You will also show drafts of parts of your final paper/project in class prior to your formal presentation at the end--these will be editing sessions. Finally, you may wonder why I said "paper/project" throughout this description. This is because I will give an option to students who identify themselves as creative writers to do a creative written project at the end of the course--a piece of drama or some kind of intensive analysis of dramatic writing from a playwright's perspective. The student and the instructor will collaborate to develop a topic and format for your final week.