COMPLIT 241 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Section: 001 Theater Politics and the Real
Term: WN 2008
Subject: Comparative Literature (COMPLIT)
Department: LSA Comparative Literature
Requirements & Distribution:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Other Course Info:
May not be repeated for credit.
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“Together we organize the world for ourselves, or at least we organize our understanding of it; we reflect it, refract it, criticize it, grieve over its savagery; and we help each other to discern, amidst the gathering dark, paths of resistance, pockets of peace, and places from whence hope may be plausibly expected.” -Tony Kushner

In an editorial published in the Wall Street Journal (June 6, 2005), the theater critic Terry Teachout argued that “Any work of art that seeks to persuade an audience to take some specific form of external action, political or otherwise, tends to be bad. But the line is not a bright one, and it is possible to make good or even great art that is intended to serve the persuasive instrument of an exterior purpose.”

Teachout’s argument rehearses one perspective of a long-standing literary and cultural debate over the relationship between art and politics. What is the relationship between art and social transformation? Also, does political art necessarily entail artistic/creative compromise? This seminar addresses these questions through readings in political theater and criticism. While challenging you to think, speak, and write about the relationship between “reality,” politics and performance art, this course will introduce you to a range of political theater and selected, foundational texts of political philosophy.

To frame our study, we will begin by working collectively to arrive at preliminary definitions of key terms (such as “politics,” “theater,” and “art”) that will guide our explorations through the semester. Our subsequent readings (and film viewings) will focus on the relationships between theater, its audiences, and its interpretation as being emblematic of larger debates about politics and art. We will see that experiments in theater that radically question the division between performance and audience mirror larger public debates about the meaning of politics, citizenship, and political participation. Neither artistic genres nor the concept of “politics” are stable, and through recognition of their historicity, we will complicate the issues that Terry Teachout raises.

Materials for the course will include plays, political manifestos, criticism, and film.

The course requirements will include two papers, a final exam, active contribution to an online forum for the course, and participation (tentative) in an introductory, theater workshop.

COMPLIT 241 - Topics in Comparative Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (SEM)
2LSA Hnrs
MWF 10:00AM - 11:00AM
002 (SEM)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
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