LHSP 230 - Writing and Arts II
Section: 001 Tony Kushner and his Antecedents: Toward a Dramaturgy of Justice
Term: WN 2018
Subject: Lloyd Hall Scholars Program (LHSP)
Department: LSA Lloyd Hall Scholars
Requirements & Distribution:
Credit Exclusions:
A maximum of 20 Lloyd Hall Scholars Program credits may be counted toward a degree.
Waitlist Capacity:
Advisory Prerequisites:
Experience in writing or the arts. Non-LSA students welcome and may request permission to enroll.
May be elected twice for credit.
Primary Instructor:

You probably know Tony Kushner for his Oscar-Nominated screenplays of 2012’s Lincoln. Or you may be familiar with 2005’s Munich (about terrorists who kidnapped and killed several Israeli athletes during the 1977 Olympics). Both were directed by Steven Spielberg. Also in 2005, HBO produced his self-adapted screenplay of his Pulitzer Prize-Winning Angels in America (starring Al Pacino, Meryl Streep, and a long list of other ridiculously amazing actors).

In this class we’ll read/watch these films as well as some of his other drama to think about how plays/movies in general “work” and how his kind of work argues for a complicated idea of “justice” in a complicated world. We’ll also read supplementary material (articles, poems, op-eds, etc.) that help us put Kushner’s work into perspective, culminating in a class-produced staged reading of “Only We Who Guard the Mystery Shall Be Unhappy” as the semester-long project.

In a 1994 essay for Newsweek, “American Things,” Kushner refers repeatedly to the notion of “justice” without ever fully, explicitly, defining it. For him, justice in America is linked to democracy (with a lower-case “d”), as well as to a sense of collective responsibility to the past and to the future, to progress, to exploring the tensions “between the margin and the center, the many and the few, the individual and society, the dispossessed and the possessors.” In this class we’ll ask, among other things: What is justice? Do his plays/screenplays help advance it? If so, how?

In this course, we will read and write about Kushner’s plays and screenplays as dramaturgs (who have an artistic role lying somewhere between director and playwright) do:

  • By looking closely at the dramatic structure, language, content, and themes of the plays (that is, by analyzing their internal dramaturgy);
  • By becoming conversant in the historical and artistic moments in which his plays appear (that is, by analyzing their contexts);
  • By considering what implicit or explicit arguments his plays make or questions they ask
  • By creating analytical production and outreach materials of different genres for a variety of audiences; and ultimately
  • By conceptualizing and mounting a staged reading of one of Kushner’s shorter plays

As we read and write about Kushner’s work, we’ll be analyzing, reverse-engineering, and practicing genres like script analysis and annotation, staging techniques, dramatic criticism, performance reviews, program notes, publicity posters, websites, etc. All of this will provide practice for planning and producing our own production, and will build to help us achieve the ultimate course goals of:

  • Establishing Genre Knowledge and Facility: Exploring and analyzing a genre (or genres) or writing/art that integrates another art form, such as music, the visual arts, film, dance, or theater.
  • Practicing Reverse-Engineering & Analysis: Analyzing models in that genre and writing both formal and informal essays and critiques.
  • Sustaining Long-Term Focus & Production: Creating and turning in a semester-long project. These projects are the centerpiece of the course, but the focus should be not only on the project itself but also on the process. Instructors will integrate (or “scaffold”) aspects of that process into the course—students will therefore create storyboards, write proposals, develop blogs, or pitch/promote projects to the class for critique.
  • Engaging in peer critiques: Practicing effective peer review methods on short- and long-term projects.
  • Cultivating Reflective Processes: Reflecting on the experience of creating a long-term creative project.

LHSP 230 - Writing and Arts II
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
TuTh 11:00AM - 12:30PM
003 (REC)
TuTh 9:30AM - 11:00AM
005 (REC)
TuTh 1:00PM - 2:30PM
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