English 3620A Modern Drama (2008)

English 3620A Modern Drama * Dr. Kiki Benzon * MWF 15:00 – 15:50  W561

I regard the theatre as serious business, one that makes or should make a man more human, which is to say, less alone.
– Arthur Miller

We will examine the representation of social, psychological and philosophical concerns in modern drama. In reading ten important plays from this period, we will trace the evolution of dramatic art from fin-de-siècle realism and naturalism to the avant guardist absurdism and lightly veiled Marxism of inter- and post-war drama. We will, in particular, reflect upon the theatre as a site of resistance and disruption, where individual desires are set against the demands and assumptions of the collective. Critical essays in the textbook will inform our interpretations of the primary readings.

Required Text: Modern Drama: Selected Plays from 1879 to the Present. Ed. Walter Levy.

Evaluation: Quizzes (24%; best 8/9 at 3% each).
Scene Presentation (16%). See separate handout.

Option 1: a Paper (15-20 pages, 30%) due Feb 13 and a Final Exam (30%).

Option 2: a Midterm Exam (30%) and a Paper (15-20 pages, 30%) due April 14.

The quizzes test that you have read and understood the play designated for the week. If you have read the play, you will find them fairly straightforward. The midterm and final exams cover the plays and lectures from the first and last half of the course, respectively. There will be a range of question types, including multiple choice, short answer, and identification. You will have a week to write the exams on WebCT in the Testing Centre. The paper should be 15-20 pages. You may write on one of the topics I distribute, or you may create your own topic. Please clear your topic with me.

Prerequisite: One of English 2200, English 2450, English 2550, Drama 2120, or Drama 2130.

Week One: Jan 3-4.

Week Two: Jan 7 – 11.
IBSEN A Doll’s House
SHAW “The Technical Novelty of Ibsen’s Plays”

Week Three: Jan 14 – 18.
STRINDBERG “Author’s Preface to Miss Julie”    Monday: Quiz (3%)

Week Four: Jan 21 – 25.
CHEKOV The Cherry Orchard
FERGUSSON “From The Idea of a Theater”

Week Five: Jan 28 – Feb 1.
PIRANDELLO Six Characters in Search of an Author
PIRANDELLO “Preface to Six Characters in Search of an Author”

Week Six: Feb 4 – 8.
BRECHT The Threepenny Opera
BRECHT “Selected Writings on The Threepenny Opera
Option 2 Midterm Exam (30%) opens on WebCT

Week Seven: Feb 11 – 15.
O’NEILL Desire Under the Elms
ALEXANDER “Desire Under the Elms
Wednesday: Scene Presentation Option 1 Paper Due (30%)
Friday: No class; Midterm Exam closes on WebCT

Week Eight: Feb 18 – 23.         No class

Week Nine: Feb 25 – 29.
WILLIAMS The Glass Menagerie
BORNY “The Two Glass Menageries: Reading Edition and Acting Edition”

Week Ten: Mar 3 – 7.
WILLIAMS The Glass Menagerie

Week Eleven: Mar 10 –14.
MILLER All My Sons
MILLER “Ibsen and the Drama of Today”

Week Twelve: Mar 17 – 21.
MILLER All My Sons

Week Thirteen: Mar 24 – 28.
ESSLIN “Samuel Beckett: The Search for the Self”

Week Fourteen: Mar 31 – April 4.
IONESCO The Rhinoceros
IONESCO “From Notes and Counter Notes: Writings on the Theatre”

Week Fifteen: April 7 – 11.
IONESCO The Rhinoceros

April 14.
Monday: Option 2 Paper Due (30%)
Option 1 Final Exam (30%) on WebCT—dates TBA