January 2021

Stephen Sondheim and the American Musical

Listed in: Music, as MUSI-109


Mark L. Swanson (Section 01J)


This course examines the life and work of Stephen Sondheim, the influential composer and lyricist of the American musical theater.  It will deconstruct Sondheim's craft and artistic imagination with use of his seminal texts "Finishing the Hat" and "Look, I Made a Hat," as well as excerpts from academic writings by Banfield, McLaughlin, Swayne and others. Sondheim's lifelong preoccupation with a disintegrating, illusory "American dream"--through gun violence, racism, classism, mass hysteria/groupthink and the quest for personal connection and community--will also be explored as we examine musicals such as Company, Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, Sweeney Todd, Merrily We Roll Along, Into the Woods, Assassins and West Side Story (written with Leonard Bernstein).  Course requirements include screenings of Broadway and film performances, listening assignments, guest lectures, group projects/discussions and brief papers.   

Lecturer Swanson.  There are no prerequisites and the ability to read music is not required.  Synchronous and asynchronous online learning via Zoom, the course website, and possibly other online resources.

MUSI 109

Section 01J


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in January 2021