Spring 2024

Theater, Drama, and Theory

Listed in: English, as ENGL-396  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-396


Frank Leon Roberts (Section 01)


What is theater, in theory? How is drama different from theater---and what are the implications of this distinction? Moreover, how have theater and drama historically been deployed (and/or theorized) as tools for changing the world? This course explores a multi-century’s long engagement with the question of what theater/drama is, what it does, what it could be, and what it should be. Finally, we will explore various theoretical perspectives regarding the conceptual differences between “theater,” “drama,” and “performance” as overlapping yet distinct cultural phenomena. To engage these inquiries, we survey a variety of dramaturgical and theatrical traditions in and outside of the western world. Among them: Aristotle’s elements of drama, Brecht’s “epic theater,” Artaud’s “theater of cruelty,” Beckett’s “theater of the absurd,” Munoz’s “disidenticatory theater,” the “queer theater” of 1980s AIDS activists groups, and Augusto Boal’s “theater of the oppressed,” among others. At every turn we will be thinking about the ways in which an attention to drama/theater theory requires a dismantling of traditional boundaries between theory and practice. Our theoretical readings will be supplemented by opportunities to devise group skits and monologues, view live and prerecorded performances, and engage in frequent class exercises. This course is suited for simultaneous, previous, or future enrollment in English 232: Reading Drama. 

Limited to 40 students. Spring semester. Professor Roberts.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference will be given to English majors

Students who enroll in this course will likely encounter and be expected to engage in the following intellectual skills, modes of learning, and assessment: Emphasis on written work including weekly journal entries, readings, oral presentations, active in-class verbal participation, group work, in-class quizzes or exams; dramaturgical analysis, improvisational exercises, and performance criticism.

ENGL 396 - LEC

Section 01
M 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM WEBS 217
W 3:00 PM - 4:20 PM WEBS 217