We've moved! The School of Drama operations are relocating to Condon Hall until Summer 2024, while Hutchinson Hall undergoes seismic upgrades. See additional information.

You are here

DRAMA 581 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

Meeting Time: 
M 2:30pm - 5:20pm
HUT 150
Stefka Mihaylova Photo
Stefka Mihaylova

Syllabus Description:

The Historical Avant Garde


Class meeting times: Monday, 2:30-5:20

Location: Hutchinson 150

Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: Friday 1:30-2:20 and by appointment; Hutchinson 112C

E-mail: stefka.mihaylova@gmail.com


This course examines the historical avant-garde, focusing on three major contexts—France, Italy, and Russia. Case studies include the Dadaist Cabaret Voltaire, Meyerhold’s biomechanics, and the futurists serate, among others. In the latter part of the course, we will also look at the avant-garde beyond Europe.

The course starts by examining the major early scholarship about the avant-garde: by José Ortega y Gasset (1925), Hans Magnus Enzensberger (1962), Peter Buerger (1974), and Matei Calinescu (1987). These theorists are largely responsible for the most enduring narrative about the historical avant-garde: a culturally marginal movement unified by artists’ radical critique of the past, uncompromising commitment to social change, and the dream of a utopian future.

Our major objective should be to create our own narratives of the avant-garde, informed by our studies of previous of existing narratives. In revisiting past narratives and creating our own, we will explore how the concepts of the historical avant-gardes illuminate our own, individual research projects.


  • Martin Puchner, Poetry of the Revolution (electronically available),
  • Kimberly Jannarone, Artaud and His Doubles (electronically available)
  • Antonin Artaud, The Theatre and Its Doubles (get your own copy)
  • Kimberly Jannarone, ed. Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right
  • Renato Poggioli, The Theory of the Avant-Garde (electronically available)
  • Peter Bürger, Theory of The Avant-Garde (electronically available)
  • Matei Calinescu, Five Faces of Modernity Garde (electronically available)
  • Ben Conisbee Baer, Indigenous Vanguards Garde (electronically available)
  • Liang Luo, The Avant-Garde and the Popular in Modern China Garde (electronically available)
  • Dennis G. Ioffa and Frederick White, The Russian Avant-Garde and Radical Modernism (electronically available)
  • Theresa Papanikolas, Anarchism and the Advent of Paris Dada
  • Barnaby Haran, Watching the Red Dawn (electronically available)

Stefka will provide pdf copies of texts that are not electronically available.

Films on youtube: Man with a Movie Camera, and Un chien andalou.

Assessment                                        Due

Presentation                            20%     times vary

Research Paper                       60%     Dec 12

  • Abstract             Nov 15 (bring to class)
  • In-class presentation 20%     Dec 5


Presentation: Each student should lead one class discussion once in 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.

Class schedule (by week number):

 Week Two

Oct 4 First Attempts to Theorize the Avant-Garde


  • José Ortega y Gasset, “The Dehumanization of Art” (1925) (https://monoskop.org/images/5/53/Ortega_y_Gasset_Jose_1925_1972_The_Dehumanization_of_Art.pdf);
  • Hans Magnus Enzensberger, “The Aporias of the Avant-Garde” (1962)
  • Renato Poggioli, “The Concept of the Avant-Garde” and “Fashion, Taste, and the Public,” in The Theory of the Avant-Garde (1962)
  • Donald D. Egbert, “The Idea of Avant-Garde in Art and Politics,” The American Historical Review2 (1967): 339-66 (JSTOR).

 Week Three

Oct 11 Theorizing the Avant-garde, 2.0



Week Four

Oct 18 The Manifesto


Abstract workshop

 Week Five

Oct 25 Italian Futurism


  • Marinetti, “The Futurist Manifesto”


  • Berghaus, excerpts from “The Beginnings of a Futurist Performance Art: The Early Serate,” in Italian Futurist Theatre, 1909-1944 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998)
  • Puchner, “Marinetti and the Avant-Garde Manifesto,” in Poetry of the Revolution
  • Pirandello, The Festival of Our Lord of the Ship
  • (Optional) Dunsany, The Gods of the Mountain (1914) (electronically available)
  • Patricia Gaborik, “Il Duce’s Directors,” in Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right, ed. Kimberly Jannaorne (2015), pp. 52-74 (electronically available)
  • Odai Johnson, “Collisions in the Coliseum,” in Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right, ed. Kimberly Jannarone (2015), pp. 144-59 (electronically available)

 Week Six

Nov 1 Russian Constructivism


  • “The First Working Group of Constructivists,” Russian Art of the Avant-Garde, ed. John E. Bowlt (London, Hames and Hudson, 1988)
  • Viktor Shklovsky, “Art as Technique,” (1916)
  • Olga Matich, “Remaking the Bed: Utopia in Daily Life,” Laboratory of Dreams: The Russian Avant-Garde and Cultural Experiment, ed. John E. Bowlton and Olga Matich (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996)
  • Puchner, “Russian Futurism and the Soviet State,” in Poetry of the Revolution
  • Part V, “Russian Experimental Performance and Theatre,” in The Russian Avant-Garde and Radical Modernism, Dennis G. Ioffa and Frederick White, eds. (2012), pp. 357-405) (electronically available)

Watch: (Optional) Man with the Movie Camera, dir. Dziga Vertov (youtube)

Week Seven

Nov 8 Surrealism

Watch: Un chien andalou


  • Artaud, ch. 1, 5, 6, 8, 11, and 12 in The Theatre and Its Double (1938)
  • Puchner, “Surrealism Latent and Manifest,” and “Atraud’s Manifesto Theatre,” in Poetry of the Revolution
  • Kimberly Jannarone, Introduction, ch. 1, and ch. 2 of Artaud and His Doubles (2010), (electronically available)

Week Eight

Nov 15 Dada


  • Puchner, “Dada and the Internationalism of the Avant-Garde,” in Poetry of the Revolution
  • Puchner, “Huidobro’s Creation of a Latin American Vanguard,” in Poetry of the Revolution
  • Theresa Papanikolas, “Deconstructing culture: Revolutionary Anarchism in Zurich and Paris Dada,” Anarchism and the Advent of Paris Dada (Farnham: Ashgate, 2010)

Abstracts due today!

 Week Nine

Nov 22, American Avant-gardes


  • Barnaby Haran, Introduction and chapters 1 and 2, in Watching the Red Dawn: The American Avant-Garde and the Soviet Union (2016) (electronically available)
  • Ben Conisbee Baer, Introduction and “Harlem, Berlin,” in Indigenous Vanguards (2019) electronically available)

Week Ten

Nov 28, Wed. Two Asian Avant-gardes


  • Introduction and chapters 1 and 2, in The Avant-Garde and The Popular in Modern China (2014), by Liang Luo (electronically available)
  • Ben Conisbee Baer, “India outside India,” in Indigenous Vanguards (2019) (electronically available)

Week Eleven  

Dec 5, Wed. Revisiting the Historical Avant-Garde

Presentations of Students’ Final Projects:

            Every student will read a four-page, double-spaced paper (Times New Roman, font 12, 1-inch margins), presenting an overview of how they use the narratives of the historical avant-garde studied in the course in their own final papers. These papers should clearly outline the authors’ individual arguments and methodologies in addition to providing the minimum relevant context.

Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
May 17, 2021 - 10:55pm