ENGL 256
Stop Making Sense: Absurd(ist) Theatre in Historical Context Fall 2021
Division I Writing Skills
Cross-listed THEA 252 / COMP 256 / ENGL 256

Class Details

We want to make sense of things. In nearly all of our academic pursuits, the point of analysis is to find meaning, to explain intricate or confusing phenomena, to provide clarity from complexity. What happens when we can’t do this, indeed, when the objects of our analytical attention seem willfully designed to thwart the attempt? Such is the challenge of “understanding” the traditions of the absurd. In this tutorial course, we will engage this challenge within the realm of Western theatre and performance from 1900 to the present. Beginning with selected readings from writers who have engaged the absurd in theoretical fashion (Albert Camus, Soren Kierkegaard, Jean-Paul Sartre, Martin Esslin), the course will move swiftly to original artworks for contemplation and analysis. Some questions we will grapple with include: How do we, can we, should we respond to art that specifically defies meaning? Can art that seems pointless have a point? Playwrights will range from canonical (Samuel Beckett, Eugene Ionesco) to more obscure but equally engaging (as well as baffling) artists (Peter Handke, Slavomir Mrocek). We will follow standard practice in tutorial pairs, as each week one student will prepare original analysis of the assigned reading, and the other will craft a response to prompt an hour-long discussion. Whether we “make sense,” or perhaps discover different ways of appreciating the varied works of art, will depend on the nature of those weekly attempts.
The Class: Format: tutorial
Limit: 10
Expected: 10
Class#: 1252
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Evaluation will be based on weekly tutorial papers/response papers, and active participation in weekly tutorial sessions.
Prerequisites: None
Enrollment Preferences: Theatre, English, and Comparative Literature majors.
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
THEA 252 Division I COMP 256 Division I ENGL 256 Division I
WS Notes: Weekly tutorial papers and response papers, plus regular feedback on writing/argumentation skills should meet WS criteria.

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