ENGLISH 346 - Drama and Performance Studies
Winter 2022, Section 001 - LGBTQ+ Theatre in the US: The Theatre of the Ridiculous and Its Camp Legacies
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:
Start/End Date:
Full Term 1/5/22 - 4/19/22 (see other Sections below)
NOTE: Drop/Add deadlines are dependent on the class meeting dates and will differ for full term versus partial term offerings.
For information on drop/add deadlines, see the Office of the Registrar and search Registration Deadlines.


Rather than striving to treat the most significant plays with queer and trans characters or themes, this seminar on US LGBTQ+ theatre will instead focus on the development of a queer theatrical style, rooted in camp, and flowering in New York City in a 1960s-70s stage movement called The Theatre of the Ridiculous, characterized by courageous mockery, baroque excess, drag, camp’s “love of the unnatural” and of “artifice,” and a dizzying mix of highbrow and lowbrow, elitism and filth.

After considering the roots of the Ridiculous style and early articulations of the nature of camp, we will consider the most important artists associated with the movement—Jack Smith, Ronald Tavel, and Charles Ludlam, followed by such apostles as Charles Busch, Penny Arcade, Harvey Fierstein, and Ethyl Eichelberger. Next, we will consider other inheritors of the Ridiculous aesthetic, including the work of lesbian performance artists such as Split Britches and Carmelita Tropicana, who performed at the legendary W.O.W. Café in New York City, as well as playwrights such as Kate Bornstein, Terrence McNally, Tony Kushner, Taylor Mac, and Tarell Alvin McCraney.

Along the way, we will trace the changing shape and contested role of the Ridiculous aesthetic, and camp more broadly, amidst transformations in LGBTQ+ cultural politics, for example in response to the AIDS crisis, the mainstream fight for legal same-sex marriage, growing awareness of racial appropriation and misogyny baked within an often white male queer “tradition,” and the rise of trans and gender nonbinary visibility and activism. No prior experience with LGBTQ+ cultural production or with theatre and performance is necessary. Engaged and open-hearted discussion is required.

Course Requirements:

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.


ENGLISH 346 - Drama and Performance Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
MW 2:30PM - 4:00PM
1/5/22 - 4/19/22

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