REE 325 • Twentieth Century Drama-W
12:30 PM-2:00 PM
Art in the theater is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light. (Jerzy Grotowski, "Statement of Principles," Towards a Poor Theater) 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 other playwrights 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-siècle 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 Ionescos and Pinters plays, Artaud and a selection of recent radical political plays, including those of Genet, Soyinka, Petrushevskaya, and Fugard, that reflects the creation and dissolution of the European empires in Latin America and Africa especially. Much of the excitement of looking at theatrical texts derives from their multi-mediality, and we shall pillage the UT and on-line resources for performance material and footage. No previous familiarity with drama is expected or even solicited, and I will provide those introductions to theatre and performance theory that I think might be provocative.