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, political rallies, or 400-level seminars in English. In this course, you will read plays that are fueled by an argument and arguments that look 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. As such, the course aims to prepare students for honors work in different majors across the arts and humanities.
Previous experience with the performing arts (consuming them, practicing them) might help, but is not required. In fact, this course works best when students from a wide range of majors and with a wide range of specialties enroll.

As an advanced seminar, this course proceeds mainly through small-group discussions of shared texts, videos, and images. Students will also take part in workshops during regular course meeting times on research skills, writing, and revision. Those not proposing a thesis–or who are already writing one–will have the option to work on equivalently in-depth final projects in lieu of writing a mock thesis 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


2024-25: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Spring 2012, Fall 2013, Spring 2016, Fall 2017, Spring 2021, Spring 2024