E 361K • English Drama to 1642
12:00 PM-1:00 PM
This seminar-style, participation-heavy course will examine early English dramatic practice via an approach that is text-based but also interdisciplinarynot to mention conceptually expansive. This means considering not only medieval plays themselves, but also social performance (which is to say, occasions of heightened character role-playing) in a broader representational sensethe performance of community and/or identity, of social manners and political standing, of gender, discipline, devotion, and more.
On a first level, we will analyze how (and to what ends) medieval subjects themselvesperformers and audiences alikemake meaning through dramatic activity and discourse. But more than simply seeking to recover some supposedly authentic version of the medieval past, we will also ask what exactly it means to perform the medieval in a contemporary context. In other words, we shall push beyond the usual activity of scholarly reconstruction (however responsible) to consider what is involved in any attempt to get medievalin this case to engage with an early English dramatic inheritance. Ultimately, we shall look to produce re-stagings of the medieval that are authoritative in their textual and historical precision, yet open to the creative influences of both past and present.
Grading will be determined by performance on two open-topic essays (approx. 75% of course grade), one with a significant research component. We will build toward these projects with explicit in-class work (e.g. topic development, drafting, revision). The remaining portion of the course grade (approx. 25%) will be determined by quality of in-class performanceday-to-day reading preparation, active engagement, peer feedback, on-time attendance, etc.
Regular Attendance is required, and crucial to success: repeated absences (or chronic tardiness) will lower your grade substantially.
Theoretical/critical readings: Habermas, Bakhtin, Scarry, Brecht, Foucault, Dinshaw, Biddick, and others. There will also be some primary source readings.
There will be selections from the following texts: Mandel (trans.), Five Comedies of Medieval France; Aylett (trans.), Carnival Comedies by Hans Sachs ; Cawley (ed.), Everyman and Medieval Miracle Plays ; Barry Unsworth, Morality Play [a novel] Windeatt (ed.); The Book of Margary Kempe ; The Examination of William Thorpe; The Croxton Play of the Sacrament