English | Introduction to Drama
L203 | 15855 | Shane Vogel

Shane Vogel

2:30p-3:45p TR (30 students) 3 cr., A&H.

This course provides students with an introduction to the central
issues, topics, and contexts for the study of theatre and
performance. This is a course on “theatre thinking”—not so much what
to know about theatre as how to think about it. The course
establishes a foundation of critical, historical, and theoretical
skills and methods that can be further pursued in other dramatic
literature courses. These skills and methodologies will enable you
to engage in a sustained and rigorous examination of dramatic
literature and performance, placing plays in their historical,
cultural, and ideological contexts.

The course is divided into four units. In the first we will take up
the seeming oxymoron “dramatic literature” by considering the
relationship between text and performance. We will closely read
several modern plays and examine the features and characteristics
that shape drama as a form of expression. We will ask how meaning is
produced in performance; trace developments in modern drama through
various aesthetic movements (realism, naturalism, expressionism,
etc.); consider the role of the spectator in performance; and take
up the challenge of writing about live performance. The second unit
is concerned with the problems and methods of theatre history. We
will become temporary theatre historians, asking how we can better
understand the meaning, effects, and reception of drama in different
eras. Dramatic theory is the subject of the third unit. We will read
a variety of plays in relation to two dominant theoretical
traditions (Aristotle’s tragic theatre and Brecht’s epic theatre).
The goal of this section of the course is to explore the ways in
which theory can inform and illuminate dramatic literature and
theatre practice. The final section looks more broadly at the
concept of performance in contexts beyond the bounds of traditional
theatre, including ritual and anthropological performance, play,
social performance, and performance art. In this unit we will
conclude the course by asking why performance is a useful tool with
which to engage cultural, political, and philosophic issues.  Class
will combine discussion and lecture, and will have a number of short
papers, including a research paper and a final exam.