Penn Arts & Sciences Logo

Topics in Theatre History

ENGL 078.401
instructor(s):
TR 10:30-12

We will look at not one but several periods in Western theatre history, during which theatre artists attempted to formulate at least one aspect of theatrical aesthetics (e.g. acting, dramaturgy, scenography, theatre architecture) in terms of its "realism," i.e. in terms of the putative fidelity of the theatre event to the "life" (i.e. the contemporary psychology, behavior and/or social conditions) that it attempted to represent. In each case, we will examine not whether the theatre succeeded in its attempt at "realism," nor whether such "realism" was even desirable, but how the impulse to define the art of the theatre as "realistic" related to the material conditions of the theatre industry and to the cultural location of the theatre in that particular time and place. Periods to be considered will include (but may not be limited to) Elizabethan acting; Baroque and Neo-Classical perspective scenery; eighteenth-century bourgeois domestic drama; eighteenth-century acting (David Garrick and his contemporaries); nineteenth-century domestic realism, spectacular scenery, and acting theory; the "naturalist" movement; the emergence of the "Stanislavskian" acting paradigm in Europe and America; 1920s and '30s American social realism; and post-war avant garde "happenings" and experiments in "actuality."