E 369 • Twentieth-Century Drama
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
Drama is necessarily public and commercial, paid for and solicited by bourgeois patrons and therefore interacts dynamically with culture and society. The aim of this course will be two-fold: to give an acceptable overview of the rich textuality and performance potential of modern European Drama and to situate its production within the context of the politics and aesthetics of world literature more generally.
The course will focus on the work of six playwrights: Ibsen, Chekhov, Pirandello, Brecht, Beckett, and Pinter. Each of these major playwrights will be paired with another playwright whose work either continues or disrupts his imperatives. We will begin by looking at the great theatrical explosion of the turn of the century in Ibsen and Chekhov, who will be read, along with Wilde and Shaw, in the context of fin-de-siêcle aesthetics and politics. We will then trace the development in the 1920s and 1930s of absurdist theatre in the plays of Pirandello, who will be paired with Ionesco, and of "epic" and political theatre in Brecht, who will be read together with Bulgakov. A selection of Beckett's plays will be read in the contexts of the two World Wars and the deconstruction of a confident European political or artistic order. The canon will be completed with Beckett's and Pinter's plays and at a selection of recent radical political plays, including Genet, Soyinka, and Fugard, that reflect the creation and dissolution of the European empires in India and Africa especially.
Attendance of all class meetings and a brief oral report 15%
Two short essays (5 pages) 25%+25%
One eight-page essay 35%