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DRAMA 573 A: Problems in Theatre History Research

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:50pm
HUT 150
Odai Johnson \ Photo by Kyler Martin
Odai Johnson

Syllabus Description:

No past is more present than the classical past, and if, as historians, we are interested in how the past has been deployed in service of a present, no past is more present than re-purposed antiquity.  The classical past has been mapped, used, consumed and abused by more cultures for more diverse ends than any other past. This course is designed to explore some of the many conversations conducted with classical culture, from the first encounters with antiquity in the Renaissance to the fascist appropriations of the early 20th century. From the unearthing of the Laocoön, to the first modern publications of classical literature, the commentaries on them, the re-construction projects of the Italian academies, the resurgence of classical learning, and its installation at the core of curricula, the imitation of classical forms, classical genres of tragedy, comedy, pastoral, ballet and opera, the debates of the ancients and the moderns, to the Greek Revival of the 18th century, the reclamation of Rome as a constellation of Republican values, the birth of modern Republics, and the creation of a modernist aesthetic based in the now timeless ethos of antiquity, and the return of antiquity was a vital force of culture in the west. The broad approach of this seminar considers the theme of dialogue between periods, triangulated across centuries, through many mediums. Antiquity has been used and abused, claimed and quarreled over, mapped and re-mapped with the values of each generation.


Part One:   Recovering Antiquity


Tuesday, Mar 31:    Introductions and expectations; online protocols

Thursday, April: 2:  Read ‘Shadows and Fragments’, Catherine Edwards, from Roman Presences: Receptions of Rome in European Culture, and James Porter’s ‘What is Classical about Classical Antiquity?’ in The Classical Traditions of Greece and Rome. 

                               First project: prepare a short list of possible topics


Tuesday, Apr 7:      Read ‘Discovery,’ from Unearthing the Past: Archaeology and Aesthetics in the Making of Renaissance Culture, Leonard Barkan

Thursday, Apr 9:     Roma Instaurata:   Read from ‘The Ruins of Rome and the Humanists,’ in Roberto Weiss, The Renaissance Discovery of Classical Antiquity.


Part Two: Staging Antiquity                         


Tuesday, Apr 14:    Read, ‘The Humanistic Prelude’ from The Birth of Modern Comedy in Renaissance Italy, Douglas Radcliff-Ulmstead; Read Alberti’s Philodoxus;

Thursday, Apr 16:  

Tuesday, Apr 21:    Documents: Review (slides) The Renaissance Stage:  Documents of Serlio, Sabbattini, Furttenbach, Bernard Hewitt; ‘Academicians build a theatre and give a play: the Accademia Olympica’, from D. J. Gordon, The Renaissance Imagination;  Palladio and the Teatro Olympico.  


Thursday, Apr 23:   Second Project: reconstruct a Renaissance performance.  

Tuesday, Apr 28:    Describe the translation of Italian theory into French practice; how did Neo-classicism come to France?   Describe the ‘Quarrel of Le Cid’ and its consequences; re-read Corneille’s Le Cid and Racine’s Le Phedre.


Thursday, Apr 30:   ‘The Social Context’ and ‘Comedy’ from Ancient Scripts and Modern Experience on The English Stage, Bruce Smith.


Tuesday May 5:      ‘Tragedy’, from Ancient Scripts and Modern Experience on The English Stage, Bruce Smith; Re-visit Kydd’s The Spanish Tragedy.

Thursday, May 7:    Edith Hall, ‘Ancient Pantomime and the Rise of Ballet’, in New Directions in Ancient Pantomime, Edith Hall, Rosie Wyles, eds. 


Tuesday, May 12:   The rise of Opera: {reading TBA}


Part Three: Consuming Antiquity


Thursday, May 14:  Raising Classical Englishmen: ‘Getting into the Classical Mode’ from Fabricating the Antique, Vicci Coltman;  ‘Virtue made Visible’ - from Classical Culture and the Idea of Rome in 18th century England, Philip Ayers; Re-visit Joseph Addison’s Cato.


Tuesday, May 19:   ‘The Heyday of Collecting’: Read ‘Ten Collections of the Second Half of the 18th Century’ and ‘Greek Antiquities’, both from  Jonathan Scott: The Pleasures of Antiquity.                         


Thursday, May 21:  Greek Revival; Read from Mordant Crook, The Greek Revival, for a solid summary of the opening of Greece.   Read Johnson, Dionysus in (17)69


Tuesday, May 26:   The Grand Tourists; Read ‘Rational Travelers’, from Robert Eisner, The History and Literature of Travel to Greece;  third project:   choose a grand tourist, and share what they went looking for as travelers to an antique land. 


Part Four:   Manufacturing Antiquity


Thursday, May 28:  Read ‘The Natural Body’, from Done into Dance, Ann Daly; and Carole Kew’s ‘From Weimar Movement Choir to Nazi Community Dance: the Rise and Fall of Rudolf Laban’s Festkultur’. (online)


Tuesday, June 2: Fourth Project: survey a modernist production (Craig, Yeats, Wigman, Reinhardt, Duncan, etc) and describe how the aesthetic of antiquity was used.

Thursday, June 4:  Read - Ancient Rome in Modern Italy: Mussolini’s manipulation of Roman History in the Monstra Augustia della Romanitá; Annie Esme Lewine; and Marla Stone, A Flexible Rome:  Fascism and the cult of Romanitá


Final Paper Due: Friday, June 12


Catalog Description: 
Methods and techniques of research, interpretation, and writing in theatre history. Relationship of theatre arts to culture in diverse periods and places.
Last updated: 
January 28, 2020 - 10:00pm