Spring 2024

The Play of Ideas

Listed in: English, as ENGL-435  |  Theater and Dance, as THDA-335


Christopher A. Grobe (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 435 and THDA 335) We don’t just think, speak, or write our ideas; we perform them, too. Think TED Talks. Think political movements. Think 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look an awful lot like plays. Readings will range from ancient philosophical dialogues to modern “plays of ideas”–from essays on pedagogy to works of social theory. As the semester wears on, you will begin to research your own angle on our central theme: Ideas performed. Your final project will be a mock prospectus, in which you imagine this “angle” turning into a thesis project–creative, critical, or a mixture of the two.

Previous experience with drama or performance theory might help, but is hardly required for enrollment. As a matter of fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors enroll. The reading load isn’t heavy, but expectations are high that you will turn up to class prepared to engage in an active discussion. I mean, would you show up to a performance not knowing your lines, or fail to speak when you heard your cue? I didn’t think so. See you there.

As a small, advanced seminar, this course will proceed mainly through synchronous small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in synchronous workshops (during regular course meeting times) on research skills, oral presentations, and the craft of proposing a thesis. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the choice to work instead on collaborative final projects in lieu of submitting a mock prospectus.

Open to juniors and seniors. Limited to 18 students. Spring semester. Professor Grobe.

How to handle overenrollment: Preference given to senior and junior 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, readings, independent research, oral presentations, visual analysis, aural analysis


Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021