E 390M • The Drama of Modernism
9:30 AM-11:00 AM
The period from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century was one of the most explosively inventive in the history of Western drama. This seminar will examine in detail the major works of four central playwrights of the periodIbsen, Chekhov, Brecht and Beckettas well as the revolutionary theories of theatre that transformed the medium and gave their works such impact. Ibsens work established the dominant model of twentieth-century Naturalism, focused the modern theatre on social issues, and also explored the possibilities for a visionary, experimental theatre. Chekhov developed a uniquely poetic, impressionist form of Naturalism, and influenced twentieth-century theatre through his uneasy relationship with the leading theorist of modern acting, Konstantin Stanislavsky. Bertolt Brechts revolutionary Epic Theatre attacked the economic, political and aesthetic foundations of European drama. And Beckett, through his relentless stripping away of the assumptions of art and life, created spare and haunting works that marked the limits of theatrical modernism. We will conclude the course with a brief look at two living British playwrights whose work extends the legacy of the great modernists: Harold Pinter and Caryl Churchill.