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DRAMA 582 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

Meeting Time: 
W 3:00pm - 5:50pm
HUT 150
Stefka Mihaylova
Stefka Mihaylova

Syllabus Description:

Advanced Critical Theory

Winter 2020

Drama 581 A

Advanced Critical Theory

Winter 2020


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Class meeting times: Wednesday, 3:00-6:00 Hutchinson 150



This course surveys the major critical theories that have informed drama and performance criticism throughout the 20thand 21st centuries. In each unit, we will read foundational critical texts as well as more recent elaborations. 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



Athol Fugard, Statements

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Bezhti


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. 12. 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 19.


Class Schedule (by week number)


Week One Formalism

W, Jan 8: 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 Structuralism and Semiotics

W, Jan 15: Read (1) chapter on “Structuralism” in Beginning Theory; (2) Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti, Behzthi (Dishonour); (3) Jim Carmody, “Alcest in Hollywood”; and (4) Gillen D’Arcy Wood, “Introduction” and “Austen’s Accomplishment,” in Romanticism and Music Culture in Britain, 1770-1840.


Week Three Phenomenology

W, Jan. 22: Read (1) Robert Sokolowski, Introduction and ch. 13, “Phenomenology Defined”, and as much of the rest of the book as you have time for, from Introduction to Phenomenology; (2) Stanley Fish, “Is there a text in this class?”; and (3) Susan Bennett, excerpt from Theatre Audiences;


Week Four Marxism

W, Jan 29: Read, (1) chapter on Marxism in Beginning Theory; (2) chapter on new historicism and cultural materialism in Beginning Theory; (3) Marx, from “The Philosophic and Economic Manuscripts of 1844,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available); (4) Louis Althusser “Ideology and the Ideological State Apparatuses” Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available) (1970); (5) Lois Valdez, Los Vendidos; and (6) Bruce McConachie, “Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production” (1991)


Week Five Poststructuralism and Deconstruction

W, Feb 5: Read (1) chapter on poststructuralism and deconstruction in Beginning Theory; (2) Derrida, “Difference,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available); (3) Foucault, ““Right of Death and Power over Life,” in the “Marxism” section of Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available)


Week Six Psychoanalysis

W, Feb. 12: Read (1) Freud, “The Uncanny,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology (2107), ed. Rivkin and Ryan  (electronically available); (2) Catherine Clement, The Lives and Legends of Jacques Lacan; (3) Gohar Homayounpour, “Preface: Is Psychoanalysis Possible in the Islamic Republic of Iran?” in Doing Psychoanalysis in Tehran (2012) (electronically available)

Recommended: Hortense Spillers, “‘All the Things You Could Be by Now If Sigmund Freud’s Wife Was Your Mother’: Psychoanalysis and Race.” (JSTOR)


Week Seven Feminism

W, Feb. 19: Read (1) Janet Halley, Split Decisions, pp. 3-105; and (2) M. Butterfly; (3) Kim Marra, “Riding, Scarring, Knowing: A Queerly Embodied Performance Historiography,” Theatre Journal 64.4 (2012): 489-511 (electronically available);


Week Eight Gay/Lesbian Criticism and Queer Theory

W, Feb 26: Read (1) Eve Kosowski Sedgwick, “Epistemology of the Closet,” in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available); (2) chapter on gay/lesbian criticism in Beginning Theory; (3) Judith Halberstam, “Introduction: Low Theory,” in The Queer Art of Failure (2011) (electronically available)


Week Nine Postcolonial Criticism

W, March 4: Read (1) BT, Chapter on “Postcolonial Criticism”; (2) Wole Soyinka, Death and the King’s Horseman; (3) Edward Said, from Orientalism (1978), in Literary Theory: An Anthology, ed. Rivkin and Ryan (electronically available); (4) Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: the Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in The Location of Culture (electronically available); and (5) Mike Sell, “Bohemianism, the Cultural Turn of the Avant-Garde, and Forgetting the Roma” (2007) (electronically available)


Week Ten Neoliberalism and Affect Theory

M, March 11: 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); Sara Ahmed, “Introduction: Feel Your Way,” and “Queer Feelings,” in The Cultural Politics of Emotion (2014) (electronically available) and (3) Elin Diamond, “Feminism, Assemblage, and Performance: Kara Walker in Neoliberal Times,” in Performance, Feminism, and Affect in Neoliberal Times (2017)



Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
December 16, 2019 - 9:12pm