Learning from the Past: Drama, Science, Performance

Image of a printed page.

"A true alarum to England, but more especially to the City of London: and a relation of the treacherous combination between errorists and malignants. Also the horrid design which the army and their own party cunningly drive on to change the government of England and inslave the whole kingdom, is briefly declared. A serious discourse held with the citizens of London concerning the covenant that they have taken. Likewise seasonable advice both to the old and young men of the city. By a faithful friend (a mourner in Sion) and very necessary to be taken into serious consideration by all that desire the peace of Jerusalem, the welfare of England, the liberty of the subject, the safety and prosperity of the City of London. Printed in the year 1647." (© British Library Board. All rights reserved. Used with permission.)


MIT Course Number

21L.016 / 21M.616

As Taught In

Spring 2009



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Course Description

Course Features

Course Description

This class explores the creation (and creativity) of the modern scientific and cultural world through study of western Europe in the 17th century, the age of Descartes and Newton, Shakespeare, Milton and Ford. It compares period thinking to present-day debates about the scientific method, art, religion, and society. This team-taught, interdisciplinary subject draws on a wide range of literary, dramatic, historical, and scientific texts and images, and involves theatrical experimentation as well as reading, writing, researching and conversing.

The primary theme of the class is to explore how England in the mid-seventeenth century became "a world turned upside down" by the new ideas and upheavals in religion, politics, and philosophy, ideas that would shape our modern world. Paying special attention to the "theatricality" of the new models and perspectives afforded by scientific experimentation, the class will read plays by Shakespeare, Tate, Brecht, Ford, Churchill, and Kushner, as well as primary and secondary texts from a wide range of disciplines. Students will also compose and perform in scenes based on that material.

Other Versions

Related Content

Diana Henderson, and Janet Sonenberg. 21L.016 Learning from the Past: Drama, Science, Performance. Spring 2009. Massachusetts Institute of Technology: MIT OpenCourseWare, https://ocw.mit.edu. License: Creative Commons BY-NC-SA.

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