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DRAMA 302 A: Critical Analysis of Theatre

Meeting Time: 
MWF 11:30am - 12:50pm
HUT 130
Stefka Mihaylova
Stefka Mihaylova

Syllabus Description:

Drama 302

Drama and Performance Theory

Fall 2019


Class meeting times: Monday, Wednesday, Friday 11:30-12:50 am

Location: Hutchinson 130


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: Friday 10:30-11:20 and by appointment, Hutchinson 112C




Theatre theory—or the ways we think about drama and performance—informs how we approach theatre as theatre makers and spectators. Is theatre primarily an art, designed to entertain and to help us reflect on our lives? Should theatre perpetuate or challenge established social values? Who goes to the theatre and why? How should theatre be funded?

This course teaches some major contemporary methods for analyzing drama and performance, as well as the larger philosophical assumptions underlying these methods. We will study how critics and practitioners have answered the questions above throughout the twentieth century and during the first decade of the twenty-first. We will talk about how each of these methods can contribute to contemporary theatre-making and spectatorship.


By the end of the course you will

  • become acquainted with a number of approaches to drama and performance
  • learn how to read complex critical texts with understanding
  • improve your research and writing skills
  • improve your presentation skills


  • At the university bookstore: Peter Barry, Beginning Theory; Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman;Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Behzti (Dishonour);David Hwang, Butterfly; Pearl Cleage, Song for Coretta, Eduardo de Filippo, Filumena
  • At RAM Copy Center: a course packet


  • All students must see the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Indecent byOctober 7.

A Note on Texts:The plays studied in this class dramatize racial and sexual violence. Some of them also dramatize controversial topics such as abortion, suicide, and homosexuality. Some playwrights engage with such topics knowing that they may stir negative emotions. Others do not intend to cause negative emotions but their plays may provoke such emotions anyway. In this class, we will discuss the artistic, social, and analytical value of such emotions, while striving to be respectful of different viewpoints.


All students are accountable for the information about academic integrity printed in the Student Conduct Code. Students are also responsible for the following standards: (1) Meaningful participation is required in all classes. (2) Credit will not be given for two courses that meet at the same time. (3) To receive credit for a course, students must complete all of the work assigned. (4) Assignments must be turned in on time. Students are not entitled to make-up assignments or to grades of Incomplete unless the instructor has approved such arrangements in advance. Request for extensions will be granted in exceptional cases only. No extension requests made on the due date for an assignment will be honored.

This course will be strictly governed by the University of Washington’s policies on academic dishonesty.


Assignments                                                                                      Due

This is a “W” course, and a large part of your grade is based on your writing. Expect to rewrite assignments!!!


Participation: 20%                                                                              Every class session

Presentation (15-20 minutes): 10%                                                    Times vary     

Performance analysis: 25%                                                                 Oct 14

Revised performance analysis                                                                        Nov 4

Test 1: 10%                                                                                        Oct 21

Drama analysis: 25%                                                                          Nov 13

- Abstract and bibliography                                                                Nov 6

Revised drama analysis                                                                       Dec 9

Test 2: 10%                                                                                        Dec 2


Participation: Meaningful participation is crucial to your success. Meaningful participation involves being physically present in class andasking questions about the material, especially questions that address difficult points in texts, lectures, and discussion; thinking of strong examples to test the methods studied in the class; and coming prepared for discussion and group work. If you miss or do not participate in three class sessions, you will lose half of the maximum participation points. Missing or not participating in four or more class sessions will result in your not getting any points for participation. In case of a proven emergency (proven by a medical document or confirmed by your chair), you may come and discuss the material you missed in my office hours.

Presentation: Every student will prepare an outline on one critical article or part of an article to share with classmates. The outline will include the author’s topic or question and his or her thesis and method. What is the article about? What does it try to answer, prove, or disprove? What does the author do to answer his or her question or prove his or her thesis? What is his or her evidence?Presenters should be prepared to answer questions based on their outline, especially how the method of the article can be applied to plays and productions.

Performance analysis(5-7 pages): This is a critical paper about the Seattle Repertory Theatre’s production of Indecent, using the method of theatre semiotics as exemplified in Jim Carmody’s article “Alcest in Hollywood,” available in the course packet. Patrice Pavis’s questionnaire “Analyzing Performance” (in the course packet) offers useful guidelines. This paper does not require additional research or quoting secondary sources. All papers must be submitted on CANVAS.

Drama analysis(8-10 pages): This is a critical paper about Eduardo de Filippo’s play Filumena, using any method other than just semiotics. This paper requires additional research and quoting secondary sources. The abstract and annotated bibliography are integral to this assignment. All papers must be submitted on CANVAS.

Tests: These will be based on the readings, lectures, plays, and presentations.


Criteria for papers:Introduction: strong argument explaining the objectives of your paper, accurate explanation of the theory and theoretical terms you will use; Body of the paper:an analysis of play/or performance that applies a specific analytical method and uses evidence from the text and/or performance; and an effective conclusionthat draws your main ideas together and explains the larger relevance of what you have discussed. Format:Each paper must include a bibliographyand either internalnotes (MLA style) or endnotes (Chicago style). Number your pages, double-space, 1” margins, 12-point Times New Roman, plain white paper. Italicizeall play, book, film, and newspaper titles.  Use spellcheck. 

Criteria for Assessment:

Agrades reflect work that demonstrates deep, thorough, and detailed knowledge, clear logical structures, correct and purposeful use of language, proper referencing, vivid and imaginative thinking and writing, a clear grasp of theoretical concepts, developed reasoning, and well-substantiated arguments.

Bgrades reflect work that demonstrates deep, thorough and detailed knowledge, clear logical structures, correct and purposeful use of language, proper referencing, a good grasp of theoretical concepts, developed reasoning, and well-substantiated arguments, but not much imaginative thinking and writing. Bwork does not contribute original ideas and arguments, but relies only on the ideas and knowledge discussed in class.

Cgradesreflect work that shows inconsistent or partial solutions to problems, and understanding of basic ideas and methods.

D and Fgrades reflect work that shows inconsistent or partial solution to problems, is superficial, confused, showing incorrect or absent references, an unoriginal or absent viewpoint, poor grasp of critical theory, sloppy writing or proofreading, undeveloped ideas, lack of originality, irrelevant material, or irrelevant substantiation.


Students with disabilities will be accommodated on a confidential basis. See Professor.

Class Schedule (by week number):

** All texts should be read beforethe designated class.

BT=Beginner Theory; CP=Course Packet


Week One Formalism

W, Sept 25: Introduction

F, Sept 27: CP, Susan Glaspell, Trifles; and CP, Cleanth Brooks, “The Formalist Critics”


Week TwoStructuralism and Semiotics

M, Sept 30:Formalism Presentation; ReadCP: Shklovsky, “Art as Technique”

W, Oct 2: BT: chapter on “Structuralism”; Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti,Behzti (Dishonour)

F, Oct. 4:Structuralism Presentation; ReadCP: Jim Carmody, “Alcest in Hollywood”


Week Three Structuralism, cont.;Phenomenology

M, Oct 7: In-class discussion of Indecent, bring your notes.

W, Oct 9: Phenomenology: Lecture; ReadCP reviews of Behzti

F, Oct 11: Phenomenology Presentation: Read CP, Stanley Fish, “Is there a text in this class?”; Susan Bennett, excerpt from Theatre Audiences


Week Four Marxism

M, Oct 14: BT, chapter on Marxism

Performance analysis due today!!!

W, Oct 16: CP, Los Vendidos

F, Oct 18:Marxism presentation. ReadCP, Bruce McConachie, “Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production.”


Week Five Poststructuralism and Deconstriction

M, Oct 21: Test 1, on Formalism, Structuralism, Phenomenology, Marxism, plays, and presentations

W, Oct 23:Read Eduardo de Filippo, Filumena

F, Oct 25: BT, chapter on poststructuralism and deconstruction

In class: Abstract workshop


Week Six Poststructuralism and Deconstruction, cont.; Feminism

M, Oct 28: Examples of deconstruction. Bring Los Vendidos; Behzti, and Trifles.


W, Oct 30: Feminism:Lecture;Read Pearl Cleage, A Song for Coretta;

F, Nov 1: Feminism presentation; CP: Jill Dolan, excerpt from Presence and Desire; and Dorothy Chansky, “Fall Girls of Modernism”;


Week Seven Gay/Lesbian Criticism

M, Nov 4: :Read BT, chapter on “Gay/Lesbian Criticism”; and M. Butterfly

Revised performance analysis due today!!!

W, Nov 6Gay/Lesbian Criticism Presentation; ReadCP: Kim Marra, “Riding, Scarring, Knowing: A Queerly Embodied Performance Historiography”

Abstract and Annotated Bibliography Due Today!!! (Make appointments for individual meetings with Stefka)

F, Nov 8: No class. Stefka is at a conference.


Week Eight Postcolonial Criticism

M, Nov 11:Veteran’s Day. No class.

W, Nov 13:Read BT, Chapter on “Postcolonial Criticism”; and Wole Soyinka, Death and King’s Horseman

Drama Analysis Due Today!!!

F, Nov 15:Postcolonial Criticism presentation; CP: Mike Sell, “Bohemianism, the Cultural Turn of the Avant-Garde, and Forgetting the Roma”


Week Nine Performance Studies

M, Nov 18: Dwight Conquergood, “Performance Studies: Interventions and Radical Research”

W, Nov 20:Performance Studies Presentation. Read: Dwight Conquergood, “Lethal Theatre: Performance, Punishment, and the Death Penalty”

F, Nov 22Conclusion: Where Are We Now

Read/Skim one or both of these texts: CP: Wendy Brown, introduction to Is Critique Secular?; and/or Wendy Brown, “Undoing Democracy: Neoliberalism’s Remaking of State and Subject.”

Extra credit opportunity: If you prepare an outline of one of the texts and bring it to class or submit it on CANVAS before class, 5 points will be added to an assignment of your choice.


Week TenReview

M, Nov 25:Review

Task: Bring review questions

W, Nov 27:Thanksgiving travel. No class

F, Nov 29:Thanksgiving. No class.


Week Eleven

M, Dec 2 Test 2 on theories, plays, and presentations from feminism on.


W, Dec 4 Individual Meetings with Stefka

F, Dec 6 Individual Meetings with Stefka


Finals Week

M, Dec 9: Revised drama analysis due today!!!



Catalog Description: 
Analyses of plays, based on leading critical traditions. Illustrates variety of approaches to a play, criteria for choosing best approach for a given play, and ways in which criticism aids in understanding dramatic effect, for both reader and practitioner. Prerequisite: DRAMA 201. Instructors: Mihaylova
GE Requirements: 
Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA)
Writing (W)
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:13pm