ENGL 224
American Drama: Hidden Knowledge Spring 2022
Division I Writing Skills
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The Buddha is said to have identified three things that cannot stay hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth. What’s the secret? Who is lying? Who is breaking the rules? American drama abounds with hidden knowledge and false representations. (This is not surprising: theatre is always on some level a deceptive practice, a place where one person pretends to be another, and where what is spoken is always open to skeptical scrutiny. We might say theatre is always lying as much as lying is always theatre.) This tutorial course will examine what lies hidden in American plays from the late nineteenth century to the early twenty-first. Beginning with excerpted critical and historical writings on secrecy and lying (The Adventures of Pinocchio, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Thomas Carlson’s Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice, among others), we will proceed to a set of American plays from across a wide spectrum of playwrights, including Eugene O’Neill, Edward Albee, Sarah Ruhl, Arthur Miller, Amy Herzog, Susan Glaspell, Sophie Treadwell, Annie Baker, and others. Student papers will explore how hidden knowledge structures dramatic action, how different characters create and respond to untruths, and what can we learn in particular from American drama about a national relationship to honesty and its opposites.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 3256
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly papers/response papers; weekly meeting with instructor and tutorial partner
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Theatre and English majors
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
WS Notes: Weekly papers will prompt extensive commentary. The amount of writing in the course will be substantial and well spaced, followed by timely evaluation and suggestions for improvement. The course requires multiple assignments, each returned with comments which address writing problems and strategies, as appropriate. Student will receive guidance on structure, style, argumentation, and other significant aspects of writing throughout the semester.
Attributes: AMST Arts in Context Electives

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