A seminar examining the performative dimensions of utopia and the utopian aspirations of performance. Using a case-study model, we will consider how different modes of performance—in theatre, film, art, and social media—have helped to produce and sustain utopian and new socialities in and across shifting temporalities in the U.S. cultural imaginary. This course will take deep dives into the archives and embodied repertoires of exemplary utopian movements drawn artistic and social spheres. What can be learned by setting the eighteenth-century spiritual collective of The Shakers beside the egalitarian performance collective of The Wooster Group? What are some key differences between the urban vision of the inclusive, African-American-built enclave of Soul City, established in North Carolina in 1973, and the Afro-futurist conception of Wakanda depicted in the film Black Panther? In what ways might Silicon Valley’s use of performance to promote the utopian promises of social media compare with the performative manipulations of ego-driven utopian cults, like Jim Jones’ The People’s Temple? On the flip side, we will examine how performance has been theorized as a productively utopian realm by critics like Jill Dolan and Jose E. Muñoz, and artists like Miguel Gutierrez, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Faye Driscoll, Theaster Gates, Nick Cave, and Taylor Mac. What possibilities open up when we approach performance as utopian by design, based on its ability to gather people into a common space and time? Students will be required to attend a day field trip and performances.
The Class: Format: seminar
Requirements/Evaluation: weekly writing and "deep reads," a 6- to 8-page essay based on independent archival research, and a final 15-minute performance or other creative public presentation
Enrollment Preferences: Theatre majors; Comparative Literature majors; Art majors
Distributions: Division I