Summer 2006
Fully Enrolled

HUMS 638
Modern Drama

Burt,Daniel S.

06/19/2006 - 06/23/2006
Monday-Friday 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Downey 100

It can be argued that the exact moment that modern drama was born was on December 4, 1879 when Nora Helmer in Ibsen's A Doll's House was first heard slamming the door and leaving her respectable life for an uncertain future of self-discovery. Ibsen's blow to drama is equally explosive and reverberating. Ibsen revitalized drama as instrument for exploring the deepest psychological, social, and moral truths. If Ibsen changed the subjects for modern drama, it is Chekhov who altered dramatic conventions that had been relied upon since the ancient Greeks. Both playwrights will set the context for an immersion into the world of modern drama and a close, critical engagement with some of the touchstone works of the modern theater.

In five intensive days of lectures, discussions, screenings, and performance, students will be immersed in ten significant modern plays placed in multiple contexts to enhance appreciation of individual achievement and their wider contributions to the development of modern drama. Beginning with the foundational figures of Ibsen and Chekhov, we will consider the drama that they reacted against and transformed in their two greatest plays. We will next consider how two Irish playwrights exploded the conventions of the drawing room comedy before considering the twentieth-century's most innovative dramatists, Brecht and Beckett. Two American playwrights--O'Neill and Miller--will supply the context for a consideration of modern tragedy, and the course will conclude with two contemporary playwrights--Churchill and Kushner--to consider the current state of drama.

Discussions of the playwrights' career, methods, and achievement will be supplemented by scene analyses and performances, as well as screening of film version of several of the plays.

Students will share in the facilitation of discussions. A major assignment is to select an additional play from the works of such dramatists as Strindberg, Synge, Yeats, Pirandello, O'Casey, Williams, Pinter, Albee, Stoppard and others, and write a critical analysis relating the play to the contexts of modern drama developed in the course.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus

Daniel Burt (B.A. Colgate University; M.A., Ph.D. New York University) is author of The Chronology of American History, The Biography Book, and a three-volume critical guide to historical fiction. He has written extensively about Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett in The Literary 100 and The Novel 100, and on Shaw, Synge, O'Casey, and Friel in the forthcoming Drama 100.


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Samuel Beckett, WAITING FOR GODOT (Grove Press), Paperback

Bertolt Brecht, MOTHER COURAGE AND HER CHILDREN (Grove Press), Paperback

George Buchner, DANTON'S DEATH, LEONCE AND LENA, WOYZECK (Oxford University Press), Paperback

Anton Chekhov, SELECTED PLAYS (W.W. Norton & Company), Paperback

Caryl Churchill, TOP GIRLS (Methuen Publishing), Paperback

Henrik Ibsen, IBSEN'S SELECTED PLAYS (W.W. Norton & Company), Paperback

Tony Kushner, ANGELS IN AMERICA (Theatre Communications), Paperback

Arthur Miller, DEATH OF A SALESMAN (Viking Critical Edition), Paperback

Eugene O'Neil, LONG DAY'S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT (Yale University Press), Paperback

Bernard Shaw, GEORGE BARNARD SHAW'S PLAYS (W.W. Norton & Company), Paperback

Oscar Wilde, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (W.W. Norton & Company), Paperback


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