Professor Emeritus — Ph.D., Yale University
Professor Emeritus, L. D., Marie and Edwin Gale Chair Emeritus of Judaic Studies
French, Jewish studies, Yiddish, and Afro-Antillian literature
Spring 2009 FR 390M CONTEMPORARY FRENCH THEATRE
French theater continues to play a major role in world theater and Paris continues to be a major venue for theatrical events and festivals. By studying the recent key plays and playwrights as well as the theatrical movements to which they belong (or from which they revolt), this course maps the shape and direction of contemporary French theater. We shall also explore the roles of the major theaters, directors and festivals. The course will emphasize the most contemporary productions and directions. The plays will be analyzed by techniques drawn from literary criticism, semiotics and performative theory. When appropriate, certain scenes will be given a dramatic reading. This course will permit the student to enter and become part of the discourse of present day French theater. Many of these plays will be screened -- direct from Paris!
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Fall 2008 FR 390M Travel Literature: Littérature de voyage et d'exploration des derniers cent ans
In this course, we shall study the written narrative of travel in its various generic forms, the travel poem, the essay, the novel, the letter, the diary, the adventure narrative, the narrative of self-discovery, the artistic expression of encounter with the Other and the Past, the pilgrimage [sacred travel] and the shipwreck narrative. We shall also concentrate on certain preferred locations such as Japan, China,, the Near East, and the United States. The texts chosen are intended as examples of finished efforts with the intention of producing esthetic satisfaction in the reading, information, adventure and an invitation to travel. We shall read selections of some of the classic examples of travel literature but the course will concentrate mainly on twentieth century texts.
The course will seek to define the generic terminology of travel literature, its parameters and limitations. We shall also interpret the role of narrator and the narratee, the function of the Other and the performance of Otherness, the centrality of its discourses overt and covert i.e., colonial and Post-Colonial discourse, etc. Emphasis will be placed on the role of description and its relation to themes, psychology, the creation of the exotic, the role of style. Questions to be tested: why travel literature, why its popularity today, the role of the reader, the identity of the author and relationship to both the Other and intended audience, the evolution of Travel literature, its contemporary definition as opposed to earlier prescriptions, etc. In short, what is the Art of Travel and why the need to turn travel into narrative and its import today.
Fall 2009 FR 356 Sex & Power Plays in 17th Century Theatre
Sex and Power Plays in 17th century Theater
In this course we shall encounter the classic greats: Corneille, Moliere, Racine, Marivaux and Beaumarchais. We shall also encounter various types of theater comedies, tragedies, tragicomedies, opera and ballet reflecting the human condition and the age. 17th and 18th Century French theater showed the power, interplay and intertwining of sexual desire, feminist outrage, and political intrigue. We shall see too the art of the repartee and savage wit. Moliere knows how to deliver a witty insult:
--Say what's wrong with that cheeky fellow carrying that big enema bag.
--Oh nothing, he's just not use to talking to faces!
We shall show films of Comedie Francaise productions of all the plays and other treatments of this most important medium in France; 17th & 18th century theater in all its expressions, gestures, lazzi, costumes, lighting, music, ballet, For the past 500 years all Europe adopted and adapted these plays from Sheridan's The School for Scandal in London to Griboyedev's Woe for Wit in Russia! We shall study the origins of French classical French theater from Euripides through the 17th and 18th century and its inheritors in the 20th. Since the 17th Century French theater has taken Europe by storm! A front row seat awaits you!
Spring 2006 F C 349 PARIS: A MULTIMEDIA PORTRAIT-W
Paris is a lure and alluring. Like an artist's model, she is both seductive and evasive. This city that has dominated Western Civilization for almost 1000 years has sat for her portrait in every generation. In our course we shall study her portraits by various artists in various media. Our time span will be limited to the last 250 years when the world paid homage to her beauty, power and creativity.
The course will rapidly set Paris in its geographical, ecological [they still grow and make wine in Paris!], political and cultural milieu and prepare the class to appreciate this city from the various perspectives of the media which have portrayed the city.
We shall give attention to the rich architectural splendors of the city, following the Seine River as it unfolds the new national Library, the new Opera, Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Conciergerie, Place de la Concorde, The Invalides [Napoleon's Tomb], the Arche de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower etc. watching the city spread in Baron de Haussman's master plan.
We shall read masterpieces of literature set in Paris and describing its splendors and miseries by French writers. Molière and Louis Mercier provide the first intense descriptions of their beloved city followed by Balzac who takes a cooler approach. We shall certainly read Baudelaire's Paris Spleen capturing the beginnings of city modernity. [Sidewalks were first created in Paris and boulevards with islands of trees and benches!] And how can one not read Proust's Swann in Love as the hero plunges into modern city nightlife desperately seeking his mistress. Zola will take us to the underbelly of the city with L'Assommoir. Apollinaire will take us by the hand to see his city as a poet does in "Zone.". The French [Fascist] writer Drieu de la Rochelle captures the drug culture of the disillusioned Parisian veterans of World War I and II in Will o' the Wisp.The Paris of late 20th century will be seen best in Reza's one act play Art which teases out the absurdity of life in the City of Light.
But we shall mix into this gallery of great writings, the joy of music. Popular songs dedicated to Paris sung by Edith Piaf and others. We shall watch Puccini's La Bohème and Il Tabarro. But we shall certainly hear American in Paris by Gershwin.
Fabulous films set in Paris will bring you into the heart of 19th century Paris, Les Enfants du paradis, Gervaise, and Paris 1900. The famous French directors' films set in Paris of the second half of the 20th century like Breathless, Zazie dans le metro, and The Fire Within. We shall see the sordid lifestyle of the city in Belle de jour and the contemporary Paris of many ethnicities in M. Ibrahim and Hate.
Our eyes shall be dazzled by the portraits of Paris by the painters of neo-classicism and the Realists. But it is the Impressionists with their rich varied palettes that focus on Parisian life, its streets, people and monuments that draws out attention - Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro, and the modernists Utrillo, Chagall and so many others.
Nor have we forgotten the photographers: Nadar, Marville and Atget who saved old Paris on their glass plates, magnificent works today that dazzle by their sensitivity. We shall see the rich cavorting at the horse races by young Lartigue, and then the masters of the 20th century, Doiseau, Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, Andre Kertesz and that master of women of the night: Brassai.
Whoever wants to see Paris in all her many portraits, moods and mentalities and appreciate the meaning of the word METROPOLIS, then this course on Paris awaits you.
Fall 2010 SLA 324 European Theatre, 1975-Present-Honors
In this course we shall explore the key figures in European theater who have marked their name across the contintal boards and the newest names that are starting to hold the stage in more than one country in Europe tooday. This course seeks to underline that European theatre has not only absorbed Beckett, but has moved beyond into new areas of theatrical concern. If natinal theatres continue to exist given the national languages and thespian traditions, at the same time, never was European theatre more integrated in acknowledging neiboring cultural expressions and performing them so that one can state that Europeshares not only the euro, but a shared theatrical voice that makes room for the violence of the Anglo-Saxon state works (Harold Piner, Carolyn Chuchill, Sarah Kane, Edmond Bond, McDonagh Howard Barker, Mark Ravenhill, etc.) and the historical/philosophical German theater (of Weiss, Handke and the contemporary Schimmelpfenning, Dea Loker and Lukas Baerfus), the uncanny Austrian theatre (Tabori, Berhard E. Jelenek) the quirky French theatre of post-Beckett, Vinaver, Koltes, Lagarce, Copi, and the very contemporary Py and this year’s Prix Goncourt winner, Maryse Ndaye. Nor shall we miss the Norwegian Fosse peformed on every European stage or hisrival Noren from Sweden. Nore, whose political theater breathes fire. We shall also explore the latest Russian and Polish theatres and their ilutrious diretors and theoreticians, surely one of the most creative of the last fifty years. In short, conttemporary European theatre is well and creative and very involved in interpreting the political, cultural, social, and humanistic realitie of contetmporary Europe. In strong contrast to American theatre, European theatre ha never been so open to new theatrical experimentations and is quire ope to American productions. Our course should provide the student with a hands-on dominance of contemporary theatre across Europe. Its main figures, plays, themes, directors, troupes, theoretical writings on modern drama and the new configurations of various forms of theatrical expresson from the official national theatres to the off off Fringe productions, cabarat activities, and the multi-media forms of new troupes.