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DRAMA 581 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

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

Syllabus Description:

Drama 581 A

Advanced Critical Theory

Winter 2018

 Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Class meeting times: Monday, Friday, 2:30-4:50 Hutchinson 150


This course surveys the major critical theories that have informed drama and performance criticism throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. In each unit, we will read foundational critical texts as well as more recent elaborations. For example, for the unit on semiotics, we will read foundational texts on theatre semiotics, as well as Ric Knowles’s 2004 Reading the Material Theatre. This course pursues two objectives: (1) to enhance PhD students’ understanding of critical theory and their ability to use it in their own research; and (2) to make PhD students competent teachers of undergraduate classes in critical theory.


Peter Barry, Beginning Theory, 3rd edition

Janet Halley, Split Decisions: How and Why to Take a Break from Feminism

Robert Sokolowski, Introduction to Phenomenology

Shannon Jackson, Professing Performance

Catherine Clement, The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan

Ric Knowles, Reading the Material Theatre



Athol Fugard, Statements

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Bezhti

Pearl Cleage, A Song for Coretta

Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman

David Henry Hwang, M. Butterfly



Presentation (10% of final grade): Every student will present on a topic of their choice once throughout the course. Each presenter will prepare three meaningful questions about the readings assigned for a class session and summarize each author’s argument, methodology, and evidence. The presentations should not exceed 30 minutes.

Summary sheets (40% of final grade): Each student will prepare a summary sheet for every theory studied throughout the course. These summaries should include the major theoretical assumptions, methodological procedures, and key terms of each theoretical approach. A sample will be provided. Each summary sheet is due the week after the theory has been covered.

Research paper (50% of final grade): This essay can be a revision of an already existing paper, with a strong theoretical component, written for another class; it could also be a development of a conference presentation, or it could be a new paper. An A-grade essay will demonstrate mastery of at least one critical method. An abstract of the essay should be submitted by Feb. 6. The abstract should describe (1) the essay’s central question, (2) argument or hypothesis (i.e., the answer to the central question), and (3) method and evidence. The original essay and the revised essay should both be submitted by March 12.


Class Schedule (by week number)

 Week One Formalism

F, Jan 5: Introduction

Read: Athol Fugard, Sizwe Banzi is Dead; Cleanth Brooks, “The Formalist Critics;” (1951) (electronically available at; Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique” (electronically available at; and Ferdinand de Saussure, from Course in General Linguistics


Week Two Formalism, cont., Structuralism and Semiotics

M, Jan. 8: Read Michael Freed, “Art and Objecthood” (; Shannon Jackson, ch. 4, “Practice and Performance,” in Professing Performance; Anthony G. Medici, “The Restless Ghost of the New Criticism,” review of The New Criticism and Contemporary Literary Theory: Connections and Continuities, eds. William J. Spurlin and Micheal Fisher, Style 31, no. 4 (1997): 760-73 (JSTOR); and Svetlana Boym, “Estrangement as a Lifestyle: Shklovsky and Brodsky,” Poetics Today, no. 4 (1996): 511-30 (JSTOR).


F, Jan 12: Read chapter on “Structuralism” in Beginning Theory; Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Behzthi (Dishonour); and Jim Carmody, “Alcest in Hollywood”; chapters 1, 2, and 3 from Ric Knowles, Reading the Material Theatre (2004)


Week Three Phenomenology

M, Jan. 15: No class; Martin Luther King, Jr. Day


F, Jan. 19: Read Robert Sokolowski, Introduction and ch. 13, “Phenomenology Defined” from Introduction to Phenomenology; and Stanley Fish, “Is there a text in this class?”; and Susan Bennett, excerpt from Theatre Audiences;


Week Four Marxism

M, Jan 22: Read, chapter on Marxism in Beginning Theory; chapter on new historicism and cultural materialism in Beginning Theory; Marx, from “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”; Louis Althusser, excerpt from “Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatus” (1970); and Lois Valdez, Los Vendidos


F, Jan. 26: Bruce McConachie, “Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production” (1991); and Pierre Bourdieu, from Language and Symbolic Power (1991); summary sheet due


Week Five Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

M, Jan 29: Read chapter on poststructuralism and deconstruction in Beginning Theory; Derrida, “Structure, Sign, and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences” and “Meaning and Representation.” (Shelby Presents)


F, Feb. 2: Foucault, “Truth and Power,” “Docile Bodies,” “Space, Knowledge, and Power,” and “Right of Death and Power over Life”; summary sheet due


Week Six Psychoanalysis

M, Feb. 5: Read chapter about psychoanalysis from Beginning Theory; Freud, “Some Character Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work” (; and Catherine Clement, ch. 4, “The Game of Hopscotch and the Four Corners” in The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan (Matthew Presents)


F, Feb. 9: Watch: Monster (starring Charlize Theron) on youtube; and Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer on youtube (Watch about 30 min. from each movie, more if you wish). Read “Surpassing the Word: Aileen Wuornos”; and Elin Diamond, “The Violence of ‘We’: Politicizing Identification” (1991) (Ali Presents); summary sheet due

Week Seven Feminism

M, Feb. 12: Read Janet Halley, Split Decisions, pp. 3-105; and Pearl Cleage, A Song for Coretta (Alex Presents)


F, Feb. 16: Read Jill Dolan, excerpt from Presence and Desire; and Sue-Ellen Case, “The Affective Performance of State Love,” in Performance, Feminism, and Affect in Neoliberal Times (2017); Begin Gay/Lesbian Criticism and Queer Theory Section: Janet Halley, Split Decisions, pp.106-279: chapter on gay/lesbian criticism in Beginning Theory; and M. Butterfly (Weiyu Presents); summary sheet due

Week Eight Gay/Lesbian Criticism and Queer Theory

M, Feb 19: No class; President's Day


F, Feb. 23: Read Kim Marra, “Riding, Scarring, Knowing: A Queerly Embodied Performance Historiography,” Theatre Journal 64.4 (2012): 489-511 (electronically available); and Judith Halberstam, “Introduction: Low Theory,” in The Queer Art of Failure (2011) (electronically available); summary sheet due


Week Nine Postcolonial Criticism

M, Feb. 26: Read BT, Chapter on “Postcolonial Criticism”; Wole Soyinka, Death and King’s Horseman; and Edward Said, from Orientalism (1978) (Carlos Presents)


F, March 2: Read Phillip Zarilli, “For Whom Is the King a King?”; Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: the Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in The Location of Culture (electronically available); and Gohar Homayounpour, “Preface: Is Psychoanalysis Possible in the Islamic Republic of Iran?” in Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran (2012) (electronically available); summary sheet due


Week Ten Neoliberalism and Affect Theory

M, March 5: Read: Wendy Brown, chapter 1 “Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Remaking of State and Subject,” in Undoing the Demos: Neoliberalism’s Stealth Revolution (2015) (electronically available); Suzanne Keene, “Introduction: Narrative and Emotions,” Poetics Today 32.1 (2011): 1-53 (electronically available); and Catherine Chaput, “Rhetorical Circulation in Late Capitalism: Neoliberalism and the Overdetermination of Affective Energy,” Philosophy and Rhetoric 43.1 (2010): 1-25. (electronically available(Guillaume Presents)


F, March 9: Conclusion; summary sheet due

M, March 12: Summary sheet due

F, March 16 Final Paper due

Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
October 17, 2018 - 9:04pm