English | American Drama
L363 | 0254 | Wiles

8:55a-10:10a D (30) 3 cr.

In this course, we will study several major plays from 20th-century American drama in depth, to explore the tension between individual identity and needs, and the pressures put on us by the wider culture. We will look at the plays historically, and see how they reflect the social history of some key periods, including the early decades of what has been called "the American Century," and several turning-points in the postwar period, including the 1950s, 1960s, and the most recent decade. (Students will be asked to find one additional recent play on their own and give a report on it in class.) We will also look at the plays in terms of their theatrical style, contrasting realist theater with absurdism, memory plays, and other forms which expand the limits of stage conventions.

I will ask you to write two papers and give an additional report during the course, and take two exams. Readings will include Long Day's Journey into Night (O'Neill), The Crucible (Miller), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Williams), Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Albee), Buried Child (Shepard), Two Trains Running (Wilson), and The Heidi Chronicles (Wasserstein). We will watch excerpts from some of these plays on video, and students may opt to put on scenes from some plays, too.