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The construction of selfhood is always to some extent a performative act–as Shakespeare’s Jacques says, “All the world’s a stage / And all the men and women merely players[.]” That performance is inherently dual, since constituted both for the audience of the wider social world, and for the self who seeks to act. Drama as a genre, with its constant negotiation of the competing claims of illusion and the operations of reality, is invariably interested in the exploration of social identity, in the tensions between public and private selfhood, and in the functions of ‘performance’. In this course we will examine theatre’s response to the challenge of self-fashioning in the modern era, and consider the wider ontological status of performance as a category within the context of twentieth century drama and theatrical staging. Readings will include Shakespeare’s Hamlet and plays by Chekhov, Pirandello, Churchill, Shepard, Lori-Parks, Beckett, Walcott, Pinter and others, along with selected criticism, theory, and psychoanalytical writings.
Format: seminar; Our class meetings will be conducted remotely, but with the seminar group regularly broken into small discussion sections. I will consider moving to in-person teaching for the discussion sections, depending on conditions on campus as the semester progresses.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
yes fifth course option
Two papers totaling about 12 pages, regular posting on discussion boards, and active participation in discussion.
A THEA course, a 100-level ENGL course, or a score of 5 on the AP English Literature exam.
Theatre and English majors or prospective majors.
This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ENGL Literary Histories C