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DRAMA 582 A: Analysis of Dramatic Texts

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

Syllabus Description:


­­Drama 582 A

Modernism, High and Low

Winter 2023


Class meeting times: Wednesday 3:00-5:50 pm

Location: Hutchinson 150


Instructor: Dr. Stefka Mihaylova

Office Hours: By appointment; Hutchinson 112B and ZOOM

E-mail: stefkam@uw.edu



The industrializing cities of the 19th century drew large groups of people from the rural areas. New ways of being together and being alone emerged as a result. Modernism emerged as a critique of modern life, and particularly of modernity’s grand narrative of universal progress through scientific and technological advancement. During that period, theatre—up to then conceptualized primarily as an entertainment and a media, began conceptualizing itself primarily as an art. In turn, this gave rise to daring experimentation and to theories about theatre. This course explores several art movements that arose between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, the period generally considered modern, and the social, political, and intellectual factors that informed them.


Assessment                            Due

Response Papers         40%     each Wednesday, by 9am on CANVAS

Presentation                20%     times vary

Research Paper           40%     Wednesday, Finals Week

  • Abstract 22



Weekly Response Papers: These are two-to-four-page reflections on the readings and/or in-class discussions. Reflections should be connected to your own interests and explore ideas that may be extended into your final paper. You may address questions that arise in class discussions or questions that you would like to discuss but were not addressed in class.

Presentation: Each student should lead one class discussion once in the course. Based on the readings assigned for the class, you should prepare 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. The response papers should help you identify your topic and develop it. While I will be providing continuous feedback through my comments on your response papers, you are also welcome to discuss topics with me in office hours.


Class schedule (by week number):


Week One

Jan. 4 Introduction

In class: Discussion: What is modernity? What is modernism? A preliminary definition

Read: Matei Calinescu, “Decadence”


Week Two

Jan. 11 What Is Modernism?, cont.; Ibsen’s Realism, Freud’s Modernism


  • Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Wolkowitz, “The New Modernist Studies,” PMLA3 (2008): 737-48 (electronically available)
  • Henrik Ibsen, Rosmersholm (1886) (electronically available)
  • Toril Moi, “Ibsen, Theatre, and the Ideology of Modernism,” Theatre Survey 2 (2004): 247-52 (electronically available)
  • Freud, “Some Character-Types Met with in Psycho-Analytic Work” (1916) http://freudians.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Some-Character-Types-Met-With-in-Psycho-Analytic-Work.pdf
  • Philip Weinstein, “Plotting Modernism: Freud,” in Unknowing (2018) (electronically available)


Week Three

Jan 18 Symbolism


  • Jean Moréas, “Symbolist Manifesto” (1886), at http://www.mutablesound.com/home/?p=2165
  • Rachilde, The Crystal Spider (1892)
  • Erin M. Williams, “Signs of Anarchy: Aesthetics, Politics and the Symbolist Critic at the Mercure de France, 1890-95,” French Forum, no. 1 (Winter 2004): 45-68 (available through JSTOR)
  • Frantisek Deak, excerpts from Symbolist Theatre (1993)
  • Joseph W. Donohue, “Salome and the Wildean Art of Symbolist Theatre,” Modern Drama 1 (1994): 84-103 (electronically available)



Week Four

Jan 25 Expressionism


  • Excerpts from David F. Kuhns, German Expressionist Theatre: The Actor and the Stage (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
  • Excerpts from Julia A. Walker, Expressionism and Modernism in the American Theatre (2005) (electronically available)
  • Wedekind, Spring Awakening (1891)


Week Five

Feb. 1 Cabaret and political satire


  • Petar Jelavich, excerpts from Berlin Cabaret (2009) (ebook);
  • Oliver Double and Michael Wilson, “Brecht and Cabaret,” The Cambridge Companion to Brecht (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2006) (ebook);
  • Cabaret (1972), directed by Bob Fosse (can be rented on amazon prime or youtube, for $4.00)
  • Excerpt from Exile and Creativity (1998), edited by Susan Suleiman


Week Six

Feb 8 Nov 28, Wed. Benjamin


  • “Arcades” and “The Flaneur”
  • Susan Buck-Morrs, excerpts from The Dialectics of Seeing: Walter Benjamin and the Arcades Project (1989)


Week Seven

Feb 15 The Flaneuse: Women and Modernism


  • Virginia Woolf, A Room of Her Own (There are multiple print copies in the library. Read up to and including the part where the narrator tries to do work on a male college campus.)
  • Virginia Woolf, Between the Acts (Electronically available. The most important part – the performance—is at the end of the book.)
  • Penny Farfan, introduction and chapters 3, 4, and 5 from Women, Modernism, and Performance (2004)
  • Dorothy Chansky, excerpts from Composing Ourselves (2004)


Week Eight

Feb 22 Afromodernism



Week Nine

March 1 Queer Modernism; Art for art’s sake



Week Ten

March 8 Modernism High and Low: Jazz and Popular Modernisms


  • David Savran, excerpts from Highbrow/lowdown: Theatre in the Jazz Age (2009)
  • Eugene Briex, Damaged Goods (1912)
  • Margaret Cohen, “Sentimental Communities” (for those of you who have not read it) (electronically available)
  • Elaine Showalter, “Syphilis, Sexuality, and the Fiction of Fin de siecle,” in Reading Fin de Sielce Fiction, ed. Lyn Pykett (1996)
  • Maren Lynette, “Disability Disruptions,” in The New Modernist Studies (electronically available)










Catalog Description: 
Analytic approaches to dramatic materials, concentrating on semiotics, Marxism, feminism, or a related critical theory.
Last updated: 
October 20, 2022 - 9:58pm