ENGLISH 346 - Drama and Performance Studies
Winter 2023, Section 001 - Disaster Plays
Instruction Mode: Section 001 is  In Person (see other Sections below)
Subject: English Language and Literature (ENGLISH)
Department: LSA English Language & Literature
See additional student enrollment and course instructor information to guide you in your decision making.


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 1/4/23 - 4/18/23 (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.


With the onset of the Great War of 1914-19, the human race entered an historical period characterized by the very real possibility—and, therefore, insistent imagination—of disaster on an apocalyptic scale. Not only nations but entire peoples, and even the species itself, began to see themselves under threat from total warfare, genocide, nuclear holocaust, global warming, pandemics, and more. Part of what makes these disasters so frightening is that they are caused not by fate, gods, or an unchanging nature but by human beings themselves. This course will consider theatrical attempts to reckon with this newly fragile world, to give shape and meaning to a modernity characterized by human-caused total disaster. Because catastrophe is by definition the transformation of what is real, normal, and everyday into something impossible to imagine, much of this course will be devoted to experiments beyond dramatic realism, primarily from twentieth and twenty-first century European and U.S. drama. Playwrights may include Caryl Churchill, Samuel Beckett, Thornton Wilder, Karel Capek, María Irene Fornes, José Rivera, Wallace Shawn, Sarah Kane, Anne Washburn, and Taylor Mac.

Questions we will ask include: How do these artists understand the role of theatre in the face of such dire threats, and what role can it play in our own attempts to live with these threats? What techniques does catastrophe demand from designers, actors, directors, writers, and even publishers of playtexts? What sorts of political claims do these plays make, and how do they make them? Who or what do these plays blame? What does the source of the catastrophe being represented (bomb, climate change, war) determine about theatrical form, theme, and plot? How has the age of disaster forced theatremakers to reconsider their understandings of the future, history, war, the body politic, human nature, the role of the intellectual in the public sphere, science, art, and other topics?

Course Requirements:

All readings will be in English (roughly two plays per week plus occasional secondary material). No prior experience with theatre and performance is necessary. 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.


ENGLISH 346 - Drama and Performance Studies
Schedule Listing
001 (REC)
 In Person
MW 11:30AM - 1:00PM
1/4/23 - 4/18/23

Textbooks/Other Materials

The partner U-M / Barnes & Noble Education textbook website is the official way for U-M students to view their upcoming textbook or course material needs, whether they choose to buy from Barnes & Noble Education or not. Students also can view a customized list of their specific textbook needs by clicking a "View/Buy Textbooks" link in their course schedule in Wolverine Access.

Click the button below to view and buy textbooks for ENGLISH 346.001

View/Buy Textbooks


Syllabi are available to current LSA students. IMPORTANT: These syllabi are provided to give students a general idea about the courses, as offered by LSA departments and programs in prior academic terms. The syllabi do not necessarily reflect the assignments, sequence of course materials, and/or course expectations that the faculty and departments/programs have for these same courses in the current and/or future terms.

Click the button below to view historical syllabi for ENGLISH 346 (UM login required)

View Historical Syllabi

CourseProfile (Atlas)

The Atlas system, developed by the Center for Academic Innovation, provides additional information about: course enrollments; academic terms and instructors; student academic profiles (school/college, majors), and previous, concurrent, and subsequent course enrollments.

CourseProfile (Atlas)