Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

Drama might be described as a game played with something sacred. It tells stories that go right to the heart of what people believe about themselves. And it is enacted in the moment, which means it has an added layer of interpretive mystery and playfulness, or "theatricality." This course will explore theater and theatricality across periods and cultures, through intensive engagement with texts and with our own readings.

Course Goals

At the end of the course, the student will have a general overview of dramatic movements and ideas across countries and historical periods, a sense of how to write about these ideas in relation to specific texts, and a sense of why drama matters to them.

Course Reading


Buy at Amazon Worthen, W. B. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama. Brief 5th ed. Florence, KY: Thompson Wadsworth, 2007. ISBN: 9781413029192.

Buy at Amazon Elam, Keir. The Semiotics of Theatre and Drama. London, UK and New York, NY: Methuen young books, 1980. ISBN: 9780416720501. [Preview a version of this book in Google Books.]

Buy at Amazon Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 11th revised ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2008 (Hardcover). ISBN: 9780199548415.

Course Assignments

Over the course of the semester, you will asked to do the following:

  • Two written weekly questions/comments, on one or more reading from the week's assignment. These should consist of a lengthy paragraph, approximately ½ page, single-spaced, and must include a passage of 5-10 lines from the text you are discussing in each question/comment.
  • One assigned close reading of a passage from Medea, 5-pp.
  • One 5-page paper in which you will develop one of your comments/questions on a play (other than Medea) into a short paper discussing your ideas about the text in more detail.
  • An essay review of 5 pages on a drama or performance piece you have seen this term.
  • Group presentation: Present one playwright not covered in the course and argue why it should be included.

Course Grades

Attendance and class participation 30%
One close reading of a passage from Medea, 5 pages. This will be revised. 15%
One 5 page paper 20%
An essay review 15%
Group presentation 20%


MIT Literature Statement on Plagiarism

Plagiarism—use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement—is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarize will receive an F in the subject, and that the instructor will forward the case to the Committee on Discipline. Full acknowledgement for all information obtained from sources outside the classroom must be clearly stated in all written work submitted. All ideas, arguments, and direct phrasings taken from someone else's work must be identified and properly footnoted. Quotations from other sources must be clearly marked as distinct from the student's own work. For further guidance on the proper forms of attribution, consult the style guides available at the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.


1 Overview; questions, introductions, close reading  

Euripides, "Medea" (431 BCE)

Aristotle, "Poetics"

Elam, "Semiotics of Theatre and Drama"


Kan'ami, "Matsukaze" (14 c.)

Zeami, "A Mirror Held to the Flower" (1424)

Medea close reading due, 5 pages
4 Chushingura, "The Forty-Seven Samurai" (18c.)  

Everyman (1495) bring a theatre review to discuss in class

Everyman workshop Medea paper in class


Calderón, "Life is a Dream" (1636)

Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, "Loa to the Divine Narcissus" (1687)

Medea revision due
7 Wilde, "The Importance of Being Earnest" (1895)  
8 Chekhov, "The Cherry Orchard" (1904) 5-pp paper based on weekly comment/question due
9 Shaw, "Major Barbara" (1905)  

Brecht, "Theatre for Pleasure or Theatre for Instruction"

Artaud, "The Theater and Its Double"

Amiri Baraka, "The Revolutionary Theatre" (p. 824)

Presentation proposals due
11 Glaspell, "Trifles" (1916)  
12 Chuchill, "Cloud Nine" (1980) Play review due

Kane, "Blasted" (1995)



Last class

Papers returned


Ideas for the future