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Michael Stoff, Director 305 East 23rd St, CLA 2.102, (G3600) Austin, TX 78712-1250 • 512-471-1442

Spring 2004

T C 357 • Philosophy of Theater

Unique Days Time Location Instructor
39665 T
3:30 PM-6:30 PM
bat 207

Course Description

Theater is the art form that has most interested philosophers from Plato to Hegel; it has only recently been displaced by film, literature, and the graphic arts, which have stolen the limelight in conferences on philosophy of art since the middle of the last century. This seminar will discuss questions new and old about theater. The first family of questions concerns how theater should be defined: Does it constitute an art form in its own right? What is its historical relation to religious ritual? To community? Is theater essentially mimetic, and, if so, what does that mean? The second set of questions concerns the effect of theater on an audience: Does the experience of theater include genuine emotions? And if so why do they not normally move people to act (for example, to leave the theater when frightened)? Does theater deceive its audience as to the reality of what it represents? The third set of questions concerns the idea that theater is instructive: Does the emotional effect of theater negate its role in education?

About the professor: Paul Woodruff has written plays and opera librettos and translated three classical plays. He is currently at work on a book on the philosophy of theater. A member of the Academy of Distinguished Teachers, Woodruff has been teaching at UT since 1973. Off campus he can be found rowing or (if he has time) playing in his woodworking shop.

Grading Policy

Seminar presentation 25% Long paper (15 pp.) 25% Active enthusiastic participation 25% Final examination 25%


Scripts: Tentative list (Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Brecht, etc.): Prometheus Bound, Antigone, Bacchae, Knight of the Burning Pestle, Tempest, Mother Courage, Caucasian Chalk Circle, at least one contemporary play running in Austin. Philosophers and Theorists Selections from Plato, Aristotle, Rousseau, Brecht, Artaud, Grotowski, and my own manuscript, "The Necessity of Theater."


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