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European Pantomime and the Films of Charles Chaplin

ENGL 392.402
also offered as: CIMS 392
Friday 2-5:00pm
Portrait of Charlie Chaplin


This seminar focuses on pantomime as a communication system that empowers popular resistance to authority and to cultural hierarchies, including hierarchies built into language. We shall consider how pantomime has functioned historically, what it can achieve, and what it feels like to perform pantomime. The course is designed for Benjamin Franklin Honors students.

Students’ main responsibility will be to work collaboratively to produce events.  Pantomime performance will be an aspect of each event. No prior acting or performance experience is needed to excel in this class. The only prerequisites are that students be willing to try new things, to act silently in front of groups of appreciative non-specialists, and to work collaboratively. Though there will be some required readings and one small-group research exercise, emphasis will be on screening, discussion, and participation in events.


Students will not be graded for technical excellence in performance. Grades will be based on students completing coursework effectively, showing up consistently with ideas, sharing collaborative energy and creativity, and demonstrating an understanding of the methods and functions of pantomime.


The time commitment will not exceed the university maximum (9 hours/week), and sometimes will be less.Within that time frame, students are required to attend every class session (F 6:30-9:30 pm), to fulfill all assignments on time, and to participate in events scheduled on these dates and times outside our regular class sessions:


Saturday 09/12, 12:30 – 5:00 pm (subject to grant proposal funding)

Saturday 10/17, 12:30 – 5:00 pm (subject to grant proposal funding)

Saturday 12/05, 12:00-8:00 pm


Sunday 09/27, 12:30-5:00 pm,

Sunday 11/08, 12:30-5:00 pm

Sunday 11/22, 12:30-5:00

 These dates have been arranged over many months’ negotiation with university and public venues whose leaders have donated resources and performance spaces to this course. Participation in each event is required of everyone, and will be graded. Do not register for the course if any of these dates is impossible for you.


NOTE: A late revision:  COVID-19 restrictions have necessitated cancellation of all but the 9/12 and 10/17 events in Fall 20. When this course is next taught (scheduled for Fall 21), the full roster of events will take place and "alums" of the current semester will be welcome at all events, for free, at that time.






fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 2: Difference and Diaspora of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major