ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Winter 2022, Section 001 - Antifascist Theatre
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  Online (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
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Requirements & Distribution:
Waitlist Capacity:
With permission of instructor.
May be repeated for a maximum of 6 credit(s).
Primary Instructor:


The rise of fascism in twentieth century Europe, alongside other forms of far-right dictatorships legitimated by mass populism and virulent nationalism, provoked a united global front to defeat it. This opposition was different from typical political divisions—fascism’s opponents were not trying to protect their own or their country’s interests. Instead, they fought the simple but dangerous idea that power and strength matter more than democracy and liberalism (or, for that matter, socialism).

The theatre has played a crucial role this global antifascist resistance from its outset. As an art form that brings citizens—not masses—together in a shared space to critically examine their societies, it may even be said that theatre poses a fundamental threat to the fascist dream of totalitarian unanimity. This seminar will consider the history of antifascist theatre, beginning in Europe at midcentury and moving geographically outward (to the US, to South America, to apartheid South Africa) and chronologically forward into the twenty-first century. We will consider the strengths and limitations of a range of theatrical genres—from realism to absurdism, melodrama to documentary, comedy to horror to musical theatre—to respond to the fascist threat, and to use the memories of fascist atrocities to prevent their repetition. We will further ask how the demands placed upon antifascist theatre have changed since the second world war. 

Readings will include mostly plays, by such playwrights as Bertolt Brecht, Caryl Churchill, Samuel Beckett, Tony Kushner, Peter Weiss, Athol Fugard, Lillian Hellman, Max Frisch, Griselda Gambaro, and Wallace Shawn. Critical readings on fascism and totalitarianism will be lightly applied as well. All readings will be in English. 

Course Requirements:

Engaged and open-hearted discussion is required, along with a preparedness to read texts that confront painful subject matter. Assignments will include discussion questions posted before class, two interpretive essays based on the course texts, and a longer final project that may be creative. No prior experience with theatre and performance is necessary. 


ENGLISH 290 - Themes in Language and Literature
Schedule Listing
001 (LEC)
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
003 (LEC)
 In Person
TuTh 2:30PM - 4:00PM
004 (SEM)
 In Person
MW 1:00PM - 2:30PM

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