This course will examine the “troublesome genre” of dark comedy by looking at the ways in which theatre and film use comic structures and traditions to explore concepts and stories seemingly at odds with those traditions. We will become acquainted with the formal and structural characteristics of tragicomedy by tracing its development, from some of its earliest roots in Roman comedy (Plautus) to its manifestation in contemporary films and plays (Fargo, Topdog/Underdog). Critical essays and scholarship will enhance our understanding of specific artistic ideas and intellectual positions at work within dark comedies. We will try to determine how they affect audiences by looking closely at performative, cinematic and theatrical technique. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with creating tragicomic effect through performance. Issues to be considered include comparing the way the genre translates across the media of theatre and film, and examining the unique placement of the genre at the heart of contemporary American culture.