Fall 2015

The World, Performed


Christopher A. Grobe (Section 01)


“Mere theater!” we might say dismissively of a political event.  “He just loves drama,” we might say about a friend behind his back.  “She’s such a diva!”  “He’s putting on a show!”  You get the idea.  Our language often implies that the world is a theatrical performance, and when it does we usually mean that it’s insubstantial or inflated or fake.

But seeing the world as performance can also be a powerful and empowering act.  In this course, we will chart the history of this Janus-faced concept in the West, from its ancient roots in the notion of the theatrum mundi  (the theater of the world) to the present-day understanding that gender, for instance, is “performed.”

We will attend performances and watch films; read dramatic, literary and theoretical texts on this theme; and discuss them together as a class.  You will also attend non-theatrical events in order to examine them "as performance."  In frequent writing assignments, you will learn how to bridge the gap between the Big Ideas of this course and particular texts or performances, but we will focus, not just on critical analysis, but also on the creative craft of essay-writing.  For instance, special attention will be paid to the way your writing might evoke a lost or absent performance for your reader.

Fall semester.  Professor Grobe.


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015