New York University
Program in Dramatic Literature
(Spring 2017)

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Course Description:

“Theatre Histories is particularly emphatic that what happens inside the theatre is deeply connected to what happens outside, not just as a matter of the topics playwrights present on stage, but also how plays are performed, who performs them, who attends them, and what social developments produced changes in cultural ideas that were manifested in stylistic shifts.” — The Authors, Theatre Histories, 3rd Edition (2016)

“The theatre historian will consult all the primary sources available and seek new evidence. She will ask whose history has not been told. She will ask about the gender, race, and class of the eyewitness who left us a written account or sketch of a production. She will ask who benefited from the prevailing ideologies of the age – the visible and not so visible value systems – and who did not. She will ask why previous historians asked some questions and not others. Ultimately, she will be part of the evolving process in which we are all engaged to better understand those in the past and ourselves.” — The Authors, Theatre Histories, 2nd Edition (2010)

This course offers a survey of “Western” (mainly European and American) theater, drama, and performance histories from the eighteenth through the mid-twentieth century. We will not attempt to create a single, continuous narrative spanning three centuries of wildly diverse theatrical projects. Instead, we will examine works from each period and consider the varied ways that social, political, economic, and cultural conditions inform/reflect aesthetic output – and vice versa.