Thea 6362 : Dramatic Theory & Criticism Fridays 9: 00-12: 00 Social Work Building, Room 423

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THEA 6362 : Dramatic Theory & Criticism

Fridays 9:00-12:00

Social Work Building, Room 423
Instructor: Dr. Robert Shimko


Office: 133K Wortham

Office Hours: Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3:00-4:00pm or by appointment.
Learning Outcomes
This course is a survey of the history of theatre theory in the western world from Ancient Greece to the present. I have designed this course with the following goals in mind:

  • You will acquire a solid working knowledge of the major theorists and theoretical movements informing the development of western theatre.

  • You will become conversant with the guiding questions and critical frameworks that form a common vocabulary for contemporary theatre theorists and practitioners. Additionally, you will be able to articulate how knowledge of this theoretical background can inform your work as a theatre practitioner.

  • You will be able to identify a viable research question and propose and defend an answer to that question through both live presentation and writing.

Required & Recommended Texts

Theories of the Theatre, Expanded Edition by Marvin Carlson
Theory/Theatre, Second Edition by Mark Fortier

Dramatic Theory and Criticism edited by Bernard Dukore
Theatre, Theory, Theatre edited by Daniel Gerould
Twentieth Century Theatre, A Sourcebook edited by Richard Drain

I do not assign specific plays for this course. However, in order for us to draw on useful examples in class discussions, I expect you to have a working knowledge of such canonical plays and playwrights as: the major Greek tragedies (Oedipus, Medea, Antigone, etc.); the major Shakespeare comedies and tragedies; the major plays of Chekhov (Uncle Vanya, Cherry Orchard, etc.); the major plays of Beckett (Waiting for Godot, Endgame, Krapp’s Last Tape, etc). Additionally, when plays like Angels in America, Cloud Nine, and Twilight: Los Angeles appear prominently in the readings, you should take that as a cue to re/familiarize yourself with them. Finally, I expect you to attend the two UH mainstage productions happening this semester. Altogether, this body of shared plays will help us attach theoretical ideas to works we all know.
Assignments and Grading
In this course I will assign two graded activities: an in-class presentation and a research paper.
In-class Presentation

Each student in the class will be responsible for presenting one of the particular theorists or theoretical movements from our reading list. Think of the presentations as an opportunity to go into greater depth than the chapter readings allow. The week before your presentation, you should distribute a short primary source reading to the class (ex. if you’re going to be talking about Brecht, give everyone a photocopied essay written by Brecht). Presentations should run roughly 60 minutes, including time for questions and discussion. You are expected to prepare a handout outlining your main points (make enough copies for everyone in the room). Further details on the scope and requirements of the presentation will be provided in class.

Research Paper

This is a ten-to-twelve page research paper on a topic of your own design (it may build upon questions raised by your presentation, but not necessarily). Further details on the scope and requirements of the final paper will be provided in class.
Final Grade Breakdown:

In-Class Presentation 50

Final Research Paper 50

Total 100
Final Grading Scale:
A 93-100 C 73-76

A- 90-92 C- 70-72

B+ 87-89 D+ 67-69

B 83-86 D 63-66

B- 80-82 D- 60-62

C+ 77-79 F 0-59
Absence and Lateness
This course follows the UH School of Theatre & Dance policy regarding absence and lateness (see the department website for more details).

Course Outline
Week 1

Week 2

Jan 26: DISCUSSION: Greek, Roman, and Medieval dramatic theory (Carlson, chapters 1-3)
Week 3

Feb 2: DISCUSSION: Renaissance dramatic theory (Carlson, chapters 4-7)
Week 4

Feb 9: DISCUSSION: Neoclassical dramatic theory (Carlson, chapters 8-10)
Week 5

Feb 16: DISCUSSION: 18th and 19th century dramatic theory (Carlson, chapters 11-15)

STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Lessing (Chapter 11); Nietzsche (Chapter 15)
Week 6

Feb 23: DISCUSSION: Late 19th/early 20th century dramatic theory (Carlson, chapters 16-19)

STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Maeterlinck (Chapter 16); Meyerhold or Stanislavski (Chapter 17)
Week 7

March 2: NO CLASS MEETING [Prof. Shimko at MATC Conference]––Read the rest of Carlson
Week 8

March 9: STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Semiotics; Bertolt Brecht
Week 9

Week 10

March 23: STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Phenomenology; Antonin Artaud
Week 11

March 30: STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Feminist Theory; Queer Theory
Week 12

April 6: STUDENT PRESENTATIONS: Reader Response & Reception Theory; Materialist Theory.
Week 13

April 13: STUDENT PRESENTATION: Postmodern Theory
Week 14

April 20: STUDENT PRESENTATION: Post-Colonial Theory
Week 15

May 8 (Tuesday): FINAL PAPERS DUE BY 5:00pm

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