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DRAMA 586 A: Seminar In Dramatic Theory

Modern Theatre and Modern Technology

Meeting Time: 
MW 2:30pm - 4:50pm
HUT 150
Stefka Mihaylova
Stefka Mihaylova

Syllabus Description:


Drama 586 A

Modern Theatre and Modern Technology

Winter 2017


Class meeting times: Monday, Wednesday 2:30-4:40 pm

Location: Hutchinson 150


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: Monday, Wednesday 1:30-2:20, Hutchinson 213




One of the most topical issues in contemporary theatre scholarship is the triangular relationship among theatre, other representational media, and technology. Inspired by media critics such as McLuhan and Baudrillard, the majority of theatre and performance scholars who study this question have placed their discussions in the late twentieth- and early twenty-first centuries, focusing on the emergence of digital media and its effects on live performance. This course, by contrast, attempts to study the topic historically, starting in the early modern period. Our major task will be articulating the (sometimes tacit) theories of representation that emerged as new technologies changed the perceptions and daily practices of people in the west.


Students are requested to read Robert Sokolowski’s Introduction to Phenomenology for the first class session. Inexpensive second-hand copies are available on and other online bookstores.



  • Buy or borrow: Quiara Alegria Hudes, Water by the Spoonful; Annie Baker, The Flick; Friedrich Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter; and Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer
  • Stefka will provide via CANVAS all texts that are not electronically available.


Assessment                            Due

Response Papers        40%     weekly: every Sunday by 10 am via CANVAS

Presentations              20%     times vary

Research Paper           40%     March 15

  • Abstract 6



Weekly Response Papers: These are two-to-four-page reflections on the readings and/or in-class discussions. Reflections should be connected to your own interests and explore ideas that may be extended into your final paper. You may address questions that arise in class discussions or questions that you would like to discuss but were not addressed in class.

Presentation: Each student should lead two class discussions, once in each half of the course. Based on the readings assigned for the class, you should prepare at least three strong questions. These questions may engage with theoretical, methodological, or historical issues. While the questions should be prompted by the readings for the specific class, they may extend to material studied in previous classes.

Research Paper: This twelve-to-fifteen-page paper should analyze in further depth one of the topics studied in the course or explore a related topic not covered in the course. The response papers should help you identify your topic and develop it. While I will be providing continuous feedback through my comments on your response papers, you are also welcome to discuss topics with me in office hours.

Class Schedule (by week number):


Week One Introduction: Phenomenology and Media Theory

W, Jan 4: Read Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology


Week Two Media Theory, cont.; Theatre and Print

M, Jan 9: Read Alan Liu, “Imagining the New Media Encounter,” in A Companion to Digital Literary Studies (Malden, Mass., Blackwell Publishing, 2007) (electronically available through UW library); “Two Selections by McLuhan,” in The New Media Reader (2003), pp. 193-209; and Quiara Alegria Hudes, Water by the Spoonful (2012)


W, Jan 11: Read “The Sense of the Senses,” “Framing Space,” “Actor/Author,” and “A Theatre Too Much with Us” from Julie Stone Peters, Theatre of the Book, 1480-1880 (2000)


Week Three Theatre and Print, cont.

M, Jan 16: Martin Luther King Day, no class


W, Jan 18: Read “Typewriter,” in Friedrich A. Kittler, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986)


Week Four Theatre and Print, cont.; Automata

M, Jan 23: Read “Part I Introduction” and chapters one and two, in Julia A. Walker, Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre (2005) (online copy available); and (if you have not read it before) Machinal by Sophie Threadwell.


W, Jan 25: Automata

Read “Nature Still but Nature Mechanized” in Joseph Roach, The Player’s Passion (1985); and James W. Cook, Jr., “From the Age of Reason to the Age of Barnum: The Great Automaton Chess-Player and the Emergence of Victorian Cultural Illusionism,” Winterthur Portfolio, no. 4 (1995): 231-57 (available online through JSTOR);


Week Five Automata, cont.

M, Jan 30: Read Guillen D’Arcy’Wood, “Introduction: Virtuosophobia”; “Austen’s Accomplishment”; and “Coda: The Mechanical Nightingale” in Romanticism and Music in Britain (2010).


W, Feb. 1 The Microscope: Science and Spectacle in the Eighteenth Century

Read Joseph Roach, “The Artificial Eye: Augustan Theatre and the Empire of the Visible,” in The Performance of Power (1991); John Dryden, The Indian Emperour (electronically available through UW library); Sarah Grace Marsh, “Not Made Monstrous by a Magnifying Glass': Microscopes, Vision and Sir George Etherege's The Man of Mode, or Sir Fopling Flutter,” New England Theatre Journal, no. 2 (2008): 33-52; George Etherege, The Man of Mode (electronically available through UW library)


Week Six The Camera

M, Feb 6: Read Jonathan Crary, “Modernity and the Problem of the Observer,” and “The Camera Obscura and Its Subject” in Techniques of the Observer (1992)

Abstract due today.


W, Feb 8: Read Suren Lalvani, “Photography and the Bourgeois Body,” in Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies (1996); Elizabeth Abel, “Double Take: Photography, Cinema, and the Segregated Theatre,” Critical Inquiry, no. 34 (2008): 2-20 (available through JSTOR); and (if you haven’t read it before) Boucicault, The Octoroon (electronically available through UW library)


Week Seven Film

M, Feb 13: Read Anna Parejo Vadillo and John Plunkett, “The Railway Passenger; or, The Training of the Eye,” in The Railway and Modernity (2007); and Vivian Sobchak, “Phenomenology and the Film Experience,” in Viewing Positions (1994)


W, Feb 15: Read Friedrich A. Kittler, “Film,” in Gramophone, Film, Typewriter (1986); and Anne Baker, The Flip (2014)


Week Eight Performance as a Radical Medium: Baudrillard: from “Requiem” to “Simulation”

M, Feb 20: President’s Day, no class.

W, Feb 22: Read Hans Magnus Enzensberger, ‘Constituents of a Theory of the Media’ and Jean Baudrillard, “Requiem for the Media,” in Noah Wardrip-Fruin and Nick Monfort, eds., The New Media Reader, pp. 261-275 and pp. 283-284, (; Jean Baudrillard, “The Precession of Simulacra” and “The Implosion of Meaning in the Media,” in Simulacra and Simulation (1981)


Week Nine The “Liveness” of Performance: The Phelan-Auslander Debate

M, Feb 27: Read Peggy Phelan, “Broken Symmestries” and “The Ontology of Performance” in Unmarked (1993)


W, March 1: The “Liveness” of Performance: The Phelan-Auslander Debate, cont:

Read: Philip Auslander, introduction and “Live Performance in a Mediatized Culture,” in Liveness: Performance in a Mediatized Culture (1999) (electronically available through UW library); and Misha Kavka, excerpt from Reality Television, Affect and Intimacy (2008)


Week Ten The Posthuman

M, March 6: Read Donna Haraway, A Cyborg Manifesto (1985); and Rosi Braidotti, from The Posthuman (2013).


W, March 8: Conclusion: Watch clips from Bloody Mess (2004) by Forced Entertainment (Stefka will provide the clips).


Final papers are due on March 15 by 11:59 pm.



Catalog Description: 
Major problems in dramatic theory, such as aesthetics, mimesis, and the nature of theatre.
Last updated: 
August 4, 2017 - 9:14pm