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Topics in Literature: Dramatizing Histories

ENGL 016.302
instructor(s):
TR 1:30-3

Imaginative reconstruction of the personal, private, and very human moments which surround historical figures and facts can be hard to resist. Playwrights have often indulged in these dramatic flights of historical fancy, and audiences revel at the chance to time travel. How delightful to play the voyeur spying on Richard of Gloucester as he plots for the throne of England, joining T. O. Jones as he organizes a workers strike in 1968, sitting in on a master class for opera singers given by Maria Callas. In this course we will read plays which take historical facts and flesh them out dramatically. We will question not only audience perception and the limits (if any) on dramatic license, but also how one processes historical research. Given a set of facts about a past author, event, artist, or age, how far can/should a responsible scholar go in drawing conclusions? We will look at works by a range of playwrights working in diverse genres, such as Shakespeare, Sondheim, Oyamo, McNally, Shaw, Frayn, Stoppard, and others. To the extent possible, we will attend productions of plays or view them on video. This course is intended for those who love theatre, history, and experiencing the past through intelligent imagining.