MUS 278
Carmen, 1845 to Now Spring 2021
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Cross-listed WGSS 248
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Class Details

The story of the gypsy femme fatale Carmen has endured for over 150 years. In Western culture and beyond, she exemplifies the seductive, exotic, independent, and dangerous woman who drives an upstanding man to a life of crime and finally murder. This course explores a broad array of treatments of this archetypal and problematic narrative, starting with Prosper Mérimée’s 1845 novella on which Bizet based his famous 1875 opera Carmen. We will consider various staged and film versions of the opera itself, including Francesco Rosi’s stunning 1984 movie, and discuss various other film transformations of the story, from DeMille’s 1915 silent film through Hammerstein’s 1954 all-black musical Carmen Jones, to the MTV version A Hip Hopera of 2004. Comic approaches will also be assessed, from Charlie Chaplin’s Carmen Burlesque of 1915 through Spike Jones’ 1952 Carmen Murdered! and The Naked Carmen of 1970. We will explore provocative dance interpretations ranging from Carlos Saura’s 1983 flamenco version through David Bourne’s choreography in his 2001 gay reading called The Car Man. Our journey concludes with a comparison of two post-colonial sub-Saharan African films–the Senegalese director Ramaka’s Karmen Geï (2001) and U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005) by the South African director Dornford-May–that push critical reaction to Bizet’s story and music beyond Western cultural boundaries.
The Class: Format: tutorial; Remote format. After four initial 75-minute group meetings to discuss Mérimée's novella and Bizet's music, students will meet with the instructor in pairs for one hour each week. The scheduled class time is obligatory only for the first two weeks, after which weekly pair meetings will be individually scheduled.
Limit: 10
Expected: 8
Class#: 5500
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Each student will write a 5- to 6-page essay every other week (five in all), and provide 2-page written and oral peer reviews in alternate weeks; evaluation will be based on the quality of written work, discussions, and oral presentation.
Prerequisites: None; ability to read music useful but not necessary
Enrollment Preferences: Preference given to current or prospective Music and Women's Gender & Sexuality Studies majors, then seniors and juniors.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
MUS 278 Division I WGSS 248 Division II
WS Notes: Students will write five short essays of 5-6 pages each, and receive oral and written feedback addressing structure, argumentation, and style from their tutorial partner and the instructor on every essay.
DPE Notes: This course satisfies the DPE requirement through a critical examination of the ways in which the Carmen story has served as a stage on which multifaceted textual and musical constructions and conflicts express the power dynamics between individual and group identities, encompassing gender and sexuality, nationality, race, ethnicity, and class.

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