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Course Detail

Modern Drama


This course covers a period in time (roughly 1860-1960) that was critical to shaping Western drama as we know it.  As we will see over the course of the semester, cultural conversations about race, gender, labor, justice, war, art, and society that were initiated by dramatists like Boucicault, Ibsen, and Chekhov were carried forward into the twentieth century by artists like Grimké, Treadwell, and Williams.  We'll start our survey reveling a bit in that great 19th century theatrical form, melodrama, as it was used to fight slavery in The Octoroon.  We'll then look at how different playwrights experimented with form and content (why was realism considered so dangerous? How did expressionism try to physically embody the tumult of emotions?)  We'll talk about the aesthetic and cultural contexts in which these plays emerged (and which plays caused riots!), and what they tell us about their societies, their audiences...and us.  Our goal is to complicate our understanding of dramatic history by understanding how these plays were and are not only "great art," but significant sites for challenge to conventional social and artistic norms that will ultimately feel more familiar to you than not. might even get a chance to act yourself! 

Fulfills the Historical Approaches requirement of the English major and minor.
Fulfills a requirement in the Theatre major and minor.
Fulfills a requirement in the Global Literary Theory interdisciplinary minor.
Satisfies the Literary Studies, Creative Writing and Rhetoric requirement.