Continuing from Theater History I, this course is a survey introduction to the history of world theater and drama, from the advent of Realism in the late nineteen century through modern and contemporary drama. Through a chronological and thematically focused study of theater history – moving from the advent of Realism, and through Modernism and Postmodernism – students will explore the diverse functions that theater has served, within its various historical, political, aesthetic, and cultural contexts.
The course integrates in-class lectures with class discussions that link the narratives of theater history with key theoretical texts and exemplary plays from each period. The course encompasses not only the study of plays as dramatic texts, but in the contexts of theater architecture and stagecraft, performance conventions, debates of art and commerce, and shifting modes of audience address and reception. The course emphasizes a diverse and comparative approach, valuing histories of theatrical performance alongside canonical literary texts.
The course calls for the student theater historian to imaginatively reconstruct, both vividly and accurately, “costumes that were burnt...playhouses that have perished...actors who made their final exits (many) years ago...chandeliers that can be lit no more...audiences that have vanished” (as A.M. Nagler has written), alongside enduring modern theatrical conventions. In studying the legacies of a complex and dynamic theatrical heritage, students will learn how a detailed insight into past theatrical practices can inspire theatrical innovation in the twenty-first century. Through a range of perspectives and approaches, students are expected to engage rigorously and robustly with theater history both in its original contexts and its contemporary possibilities as “living theatre.”