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Schedule

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The module is in two distinct parts, one in each term. In the first part, we will examine two significant periods of theatre, each of which featured tragedy as one of its major modes of expression. We will study exceptional plays by Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, which will help us think more broadly about the contexts and conventions of classical Greek theatre (including its festival orientation, spatial arrangement, style of performance, use of masks, and presence of the chorus). We will then look at Roman theatre through Seneca’s work, and ask what distinguishes modes of tragedy in the two different settings. We will move on to examine plays from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods of British theatre, and their performance conventions (including the play within the play, layered kinds of characterisation, scenic arrangements, and use of soliloquies, asides and eavesdropping). We will look at the core features of tragedy in both periods – its interest in power dynamics and social process, the relationship between fate (or history) and personal responsibility, the nature of tragic witness and experience. We will examine modern and contemporary responses to tragedy, and address positions against tragedy and the apparent termination of tragedy as a mode in the twentieth century. This first part of the module will include close reading of plays and critical texts, along with micro-presentations and group presentations in seminar. We will stand up excerpts from the plays in workshop, to begin to understand them from the inside and explore their dramaturgical principles.

In the second part of the module you will work in groups to conceive, create and present short (15-20-minute) performances that are informed in some way by the theatre that we studied in the first term. We will consider ways of adapting or devising in relation to classical texts and modes. You will follow a near-industry process that includes pitching a project for approval, iterative stages of development, consideration of the larger (whole-project) programme of performances, production management, project publicity, and summative presentation of performance work. We will be less concerned with achieving high production values (not least given constraints of time), but very concerned with dramaturgical strategies and structure, intelligent responses to the discourse and idioms of the tragic, and the exploration of appropriate modes of presentation for a contemporary audience.


SCHEDULE

AUTUMN TERM

WEEK 1

Monday 2 October

o Topic/title

What is tragedy?

o Outline

Introduction to the module

Playtext: Agamemnon by Aeschylus

What are the performance conventions of classical Greek tragedy?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Try to read the play ‘theatrically’ – don’t worry if you find it difficult to follow or if it contains references or terms that are unfamiliar. Look instead for the flow of the story, how information is laid out, and what kind of issues or tensions are set up.

- Think about a key line or moment. We’ll try to stage this.

- Look at the introductory materials on classical theatre – we’ll discuss the key principles here.

- I will talk through the module more broadly, and brief you on the micro-presentations and group presentations that you’ll give this term, and the subsequent ‘Seminar contributions e-submission’. We’ll discuss class protocols and plans for the next few weeks.

WEEK 2

Monday 9 October

o Topic/title

Tragedy and responsibility

Tragedy and transgression

o Outline

Playtext: Oedipus the King by Sophocles

How does Greek tragedy deal with issues of personal and social responsibility and transgression?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Think about whether you feel sympathy for Oedipus – or, more precisely, how the play positions you here (to be sympathetic or critical).

- Where does the play ‘turn’? Or – what are the turning points of the story?

- How does the play manage the flow of information?

- Think about Raymond Williams’ writing in terms of theatre as culture – that is, how does Greek tragedy shape a response to personal and public matters of importance?

- Look at the introductory excerpt on Aristotle (and go on to read Aristotle – listed on the module reading list – if you’re interested!) – we’ll discuss the principles here, which are foundational (but contested) in thinking about tragedy.

WEEK 3

Monday 16 October

o Topic/title

Tragedy and suffering

Tragedy and gender

o Outline

Playtext: Hekabe (Hecuba) by Euripides

How does classical Greek tragedy deal with gender, and how is it available to gendered performance?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Think about the play as a text about gender relations, and ask yourself if this changes your view of it in any way.

- Look at Laura McLure’s chapter, for an account of the place of women in classical Greek society and how this might be refracted in performance.

- We’ll consider staging conventions more broadly, and particularly, this week, the chorus – read David Wiles’s excerpt, and ask what you think the chorus does that can’t be achieved by other means. Who are the chorus members, here, and how do they relate to the audience?

WEEK 4

Monday 23 October

o Topic/title

Tragedy and desire

Tragedy and performability

o Outline

Playtext: GROUP A: Thyestes by Seneca

GROUP B: Medea by Seneca

How does classical Roman theatre differ from its Greek antecedent?

How do these plays deal with desire – what characters want, and what audiences want to see?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Can you trace a line of desire in each of these plays? Whose desire? What is it that is wanted, and why, and how does that become exciting, or shocking, or both?

- Think about whether these plays are ‘performable’. What resists performance, and what might be solutions to some of the difficulties here?

- Think about whether we can see performance conventions changing as we move across time and across countries. What is different?

- We’ll spend part of the class discussing the group presentations due next week.

WEEK 5

Monday 30 October

o Topic/title

Classical tragedy and modern/contemporary performance

Group presentations

o Outline

Seminar discussion of Lehmann’s text, and a reprise of the work we’ve done so far.

Group presentations on how Greek/Roman tragedy ‘speaks’ today

Feedback on presentations, and briefing regarding the draft essay plans (due in Week 10)

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- We’ll form small groups in advance of this class. In your group, give a 10-minute presentation on an aspect of classical Greek/Roman tragedy that you find especially effective, or problematic, or challenging. Consider how this appears (or might be managed) in performance. Discuss how this might map against contemporary concerns.

- We will discuss and debrief the presentations, including initial feedback, and reflect briefly on how these will be captured in the ‘Seminar contributions e-submission’ due in Week 10.

- We will also look at Hans-Thies Lehmann’s work on tragedy. This is quite a difficult text – don’t worry if you don’t follow it all, but do look for key lines of argument. We’ll review Lehmann’s account of key principles of tragedy. Think about Lehmann’s argument that these principles can be mapped onto a range of work that comes later.

- We’ll briefly preview the next half of term, and start thinking about the essay that you’ll write.

WEEK 6

READING WEEK

You can use this week to tidy up the materials for your group presentation (you’ll be submitting this at the end of the term), go back to anything that you’d like to explore in greater depth, and prepare for the classes in the second half of the term. This is a good time to do some preparatory work on the essay, although it’s fine if you prefer to wait a little in case you might choose to write on plays in the second half of the term.

WEEK 7

Monday 13 November

o Topic/title

The performance conventions of Renaissance theatre

Tragedy and revenge

o Outline

Playtext: Thomas Kyd, The Spanish Tragedy

What are the performance conventions of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre?

Why was The Spanish Tragedy so popular and influential?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- How is revenge managed and presented in the play? And why do you think revenge should become so theatrically and culturally compelling in tragedy of the period?

- As ever, try to read the play theatrically, mindful of the flow of action, the spatial arrangement and the sort of relationship that’s built between key characters and the audience.

- Read Peter Womack’s (very accessible) outline of the context for performance during this era, which should help!

- We’ll consider the essay due at the beginning of next term, and explore some possibilities and strategies – do come with any questions or thoughts about this.

WEEK 8

Monday 20 November

o Topic/title

Tragedy and the individual

o Outline

Playtext: William Shakespeare, Hamlet

How does Renaissance tragedy deal with individual experience?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Our focus this week is on individual experience – although there is much else to be said about Hamlet. Think about the perspectives that the play provides. Do you see things largely through Hamlet’s eyes? Or do you see Hamlet himself through the eyes of others?

- Where do you think the ‘tragedy’ lies, in this play?

- I’ve included a very brief excerpt from Jonathan Dollimore’s influential book of (originally) 1984, since it opens out into a discussion about a form of individualism over and against a more ‘materialist’ reading of action, culture and politics. How might Hamlet be seen as a play about a system/situation rather than a person?

- We’ll also discuss the more recent ‘affective turn’ in criticism – that is, how texts/productions make you feel. What are the ‘feeling mechanisms’ of Hamlet?

- I will schedule individual tutorials to consider draft essay plans.

WEEK 9

Monday 27 November

o Topic/title

Riffing on tragedy

o Outline

Playtext: GROUP A: John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi

GROUP B: Thomas Middleton and William Rowley, The Changeling

Developments and dimensions in Renaissance tragedy

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- How is tragedy being extended, reshaped, made ironic in these plays?

- What are the particular challenges to performance, here? (What strikes you as difficult to achieve, perhaps because the plays are of their period; and what’s particularly attractive or compelling?)

- Read Ania Loomba’s chapter – we’ll look at these plays in terms of how they present/problematize gender relations and the place of women in the drama.

- We’ll briefly touch base regarding the ‘Seminar contributions e-submission’ that is due to be submitted next week.

WEEK 10

Monday 4 December

o Topic/title

Rethinking tragedy and representation

o Outline

A review of what we’ve covered.

How has tragedy come down to us?

What kind of ‘cultural production’ is tragedy?

How does it matter to us today?

o Reading/Viewing

Please see the reading for this week at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Read the Eagleton and Maffesoli excerpts. They will take us back to the broader discussion we had when looking at Lehmann’s writing, concerning the place of tragedy in aesthetics and culture, and how tragedy can be seen (or can be re-expressed) in various kinds of modern and contemporary performance.

- We will consider contemporary tendencies in performance, including ‘reality trend’ work and a shift to spectator engagement, to consider how this might help us (re)figure the tragic.

- We’ll spend some time in the class considering draft essay plans.

- Before the class, submit ‘Seminar contributions e-submission’ for assessment

SPRING TERM

WEEK 1

Monday 8 January

o Topic/title

Approaching adaptation and devising

o Outline

Briefing of the term’s schedule and activities

Project timeline

Formation of groups

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Come with some initial thoughts about the kinds of performance (in response to the tragic) you would be interested to develop, and the role that you would prefer to undertake in a group.

- Workshop exploring devising and adaptation process.

- Feedback on Term 1 ‘Seminar contributions e-submissions’.

- Term 2 Assessment briefing and discussion of project documentation strategies.

WEEK 2

Monday 15 January

o Topic/title

Project brainstorming and macro-design

o Outline

Consideration of the project as a whole

Overarching parameters and features

Ideas for specific productions/performances

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Come with more developed thoughts about performance possibilities.

- We will also discuss design and production parameters for the project, so that planning for each performance/production can take place with these in mind.

- Workshop exploring performance modes.

WEEK 3

Monday 22 January

o Topic/title

Project pitches

o Outline

Groups present their proposed projects

Discussion and feedback

Developmental workshops

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Prepare your pitch in your group. The pitch should outline a plan for a 15-20-minute performance, and should include a brief description of the piece, an indication of design elements and requirements, an account of who does what, details of spatial arrangements and audience handling, and a list of technical/production elements. Please also provide a brief account of how the performance responds to the idiom of the tragic.

- Discussion of projects and feedback on pitches.

- Planning of design and logistics.

WEEK 4

Monday 29 January

o Topic/title

Project agreements

Individual aims and responsibilities

Project development workshops

o Outline

Projects will be confirmed.

Groups will workshop their projects as appropriate, with showing/reporting to the tutor.

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Be prepared to undertake intensive development of your project, and share key intentions, challenges and potential solutions with the tutor.

- We will ‘green light’ projects at this point. This process may entail some adjustments to original plans as we arrive at agreements concerning work for production.

- We will look at individual aims and responsibilities for the project/performance.

- I will feed back individually on your essays.

WEEK 5

Monday 5 February

o Topic/title

Production management and publicity plans

Project development workshops

o Outline

Discussion and planning with regard to production management and publicity for the project as a whole.

Groups will workshop their projects as appropriate, with showing/reporting to the tutor.

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Prepare any relevant production management details (for example concerning devising/rehearsal schedules, division of labour, acquisition of any necessary props and costumes, sourcing of equipment, design and operation of sound, lighting, video/media etc).

- Come with ideas and suggestions concerning publicity for the project (e-publicity, invitations list, social media)

- Review of documentation activities and plan for final portfolios.

WEEK 6

Monday 12 February

READING WEEK

You can use this week to consolidate text and design materials, and make individual and group preparations as appropriate.

WEEK 7

Monday 19 February

o Topic/title

Performance dry runs

Feedback

o Outline

Groups present their performances in rough draft form.

Discussion and feedback

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Prepare your performance so that you can present it in a scratch version to an audience. It doesn’t have to be very polished, but do commit to doing the piece as fully as possible.

- We will discuss the pieces, with feedback on each, and consider how they work together to make a festival/joint programme.

- Production management considerations.

- Marketing as appropriate.

WEEK 8

Monday 26 February

o Topic/title

Rehearsal

o Outline

Groups finalise and rehearse their performances, sharing with/reporting to the tutor.

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Finalise (at this stage) your choices and decisions, and rehearse your performance so that you can present it the following week. We’re not after very high production values, but rather work that responds to the brief in a coherent and engaging way.

- Audience handling and front of house arrangements.

- Strike and returns plan.

- Finalise programme materials and arrange for programme printing.

- Production management considerations.

- Marketing as appropriate.

WEEK 9

Monday 5 March

o Topic/title

Performance presentations

o Outline

Performances to an audience.

Post-show discussion as possible and appropriate.

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Final preparations in advance of performance.

- Programme materials printed.

- Space prepared and managed.

- Marketing as appropriate.

- Front of house and audience management.

- Performances.

- Post-show discussion (tbc) and strike.

WEEK 10

Monday 12 March

o Topic/title

Debrief and feedback

o Outline

Debrief and feedback regarding performances.

Discussion of the module as a whole, and concluding thoughts concerning tragedy and performance.

o Reading/Viewing

There is no specific reading for this week. Texts variously on tragedy, theatre production and contemporary performance are at http://readinglists.warwick.ac.uk/lists/C454BE37-40BE-B407-493B-7AE52B48B9FD.html

o Tasks

- Reflect on your work, and your own journey through the module and the performance project.

- Consider your plans for the final portfolio submission – we’ll discuss this further in class.

- We’ll debrief each group’s performance, the project as a whole, and reflect on what we’ve learned over the course of the module.