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DRAMA 583 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

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

Syllabus Description:

Drama 583 A

The New Avant-Gardes: US Avant-Garde Performance after World-War II

Spring 2022


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

Location: Hutchinson 155


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: Friday 1:30-2:20; Hutchinson 112B

E-mail: stefkam@uw.edu



Since the 1960s, when the historical avant-garde began to be seriously examined, scholars have proclaimed the avant-garde dead on many occasions. Equally frequently, other scholars have countered that the death of the avant-garde has been announced prematurely. This course examines the conditions under which avant-garde aesthetic has emerged in the US and elsewhere since WWII. Key moments include the Paris student riots of 1968, which many critics have endowed with the status of the first neo-avant-garde performance, and 9/11, which others view as the beginning of a conservative avant-garde. This course is particularly interested in the intersections among avant-garde art and performances of gender, race, and religion.



  • James Harding, Cutting Performances; Mike Sell, Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism; Mike Sell, The Avant-Garde: Race, Religion, War; and Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, and Saba Mahmood, Is Critique Secular?; Judith F. Rodenbeck, “Radical Prototypes”; Uri McMillan, Embodied Avatars

Assessment                                                    Due

Two Presentations      20% (10% each)         times vary

Research Paper           80%                             June 8

  • Abstract and bibliography April 25



Presentations: Each student should lead discussion once during the course for the first half of the class session. Based on the readings assigned for the class, prepare a list of learning objectives and assignments to achieve them. The assignments may include a discussion based on one to three strong questions; analysis of documents or videos; acting demonstrations, or anything else that will help you fulfill your learning goals. The assignments will engage with theoretical, methodological, and/or historical issues. While the presentation should be engaging primarily with the readings for the specific class, you are encouraged to make connections with topics and 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. You are welcome to discuss topics with me in office hours.


Class Schedule (by week number):


Week One

March 28 What Is the Neo-Avant-Garde?

Read: Peter Bürger, chapters 3 and 4 from Theory of The Avant-Garde. Electronically available at http://monoskop.org/images/d/d0/Buerger_Peter_The_Theory_of_the_Avant-Garde.pdf;

Hal Foster, “Who Is Afraid of the Neo-Avant-Garde?” in The Return of the Real, https://monoskop.org/images/2/27/Foster_Hal_The_Return_of_the_Real_1996.pdf;

(Optional) Ubu Roi, by Alfred Jarry


Week Two

April 4 May 1968, Paris

Watch: Le fond de l’air est rouge (Grin without a Cat) on youtube

Read: The Situationist Manifesto: https://hts3.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/situationist-international-mani... Martin Puchner, chapters 12 and 13 from Poetry of the Revolution (2005) (electronically available through UW library website); and James M. Harding, “Dissent behind the Barricades: Radical Art, Revolutionary Stages, and Avant-Garde Divisions,” in Contours of the Theatrical Avant-Garde (2000);


Week Three

April 11 Allan Kaprow’s Happenings

Read: Allan Kaprow, “Happenings in the New York Scene” (1961), in Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life (electronically available at http://monoskop.org/images/3/36/Kaprow_Allan_Essays_on_the_Blurring_of_Art_and_Life_with_Impurity_Experimental_Art_The_Meaning_of_Life_missing.pdf); Judith Rodenbeck, chapters 1, 2, and 3 from Radical Prototypes, Allen Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings (2011)  


Week Four

April 18 The Living Theatre

Watch in class: Paradise Now

Read: and Mike Sell, Introduction and chapters 1 and 2 in Avant-Garde Performance and the Limits of Criticism (2008)


Week Five

April 25 Feminist Artists and the Avant-Garde

Read: Chapters one, five, and six in James M. Harding, Cutting Performances (2012); also read the description of Carolee Schneemann’s 1975 performance piece Interior Scroll on the web site of Tate Modern: http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/schneemann-interior-scroll-p13282/text-summary Some images are available at http://www.caroleeschneemann.com/interiorscroll.html

Watch: a five-minute Clip from Schneemann’s More than Meat Joy (1964) on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fw_wW2v45eI

Abstracts due today!


Week Six

May 2 Feminist Artists and the Avant-Garde, cont.

Read: Rebecca Schneider, Introduction and chapter one from The Explicit Body in Performance (1997) (electronically available through UW library website); and Peggy Phelan, chapter seven, in Unmarked: The Politics of Performance (1993) (electronically available through UW library website) 


Week Seven

May 9 A Black Avant-Garde?

Read: Uri McMillan, Introduction, chapters 3 and 4, and Conclusion in Embodied Avatars (2015) (electronically available through UW library website)


Week Eight

May 16 Avant-Garde, Radicalism, and Religion

Read: Talal Asad, Wendy Brown, Judith Butler, and Saba Mahmood, Is Critique Secular, from the beginning to p. 136. https://escholarship.org/content/qt84q9c6ft/qt84q9c6ft_noSplash_000185a71b8a299dc713c433a22cfa59.pdf?t=ku31qu; and Richard Scechner, “9/11 as an Avant-Garde,” in Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right, ed, Kimberly Jannarone (2015) (electronically available through UW library website)


Week Nine

May 23 The Avant-Garde and Religion; cont.

Read: Chapter two in Mike Sell, The Avant-garde: Race, Religion, War (2011); and Ann Pellegrini, “Signaling through the Flames,” in Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right, ed, Kimberly Jannarone (2015) (electronically available through UW library website)


Week Ten

May 30? Postmodernism, Neoliberalism, and the Avant-Garde

Read, Foster, “Whatever Happened to Postmodernism,” in Return of the Real; Jean-Francois Lyotard, “Answering the Question: What is Postmodernism?” in Postmodernism: A Reader, ed. Patricia Waugh (1992); Liz Tomlin “The Academy and the Market Place,” in Vanguard Performance beyond Left and Right; and Wendy Brown, chapter 1 from Undoing the Demos (2015)


Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
February 16, 2022 - 9:56pm