English 184, Fall 2010 (revised 7/14/10) Contemporary Drama: Race/Gender/Identity

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English 184, Fall 2010 (revised 7/14/10)

Contemporary Drama: Race/Gender/Identity

Prof. David DeRose

Office Hours: XXX or by appointment

Dante 312

631-8131 / dderose@stmarys-ca.edu

Course Agenda and Goals:
“The question of [dramatic] form runs parallel to the question of the way the world is set up. If you are questioning form in the theatre, then you are questioning the form of the world."

-- Suzan-Lori Parks

As the voices and experiences of women, persons of color, and other potentially marginalized populations find their way onto our stages, playwrights are experimenting with new dramatic models to serve those voices and give shape to their experience. This course will offer a study of many contemporary writers and their dramatic responses to the question of how gender, race, and the politics of personal identity are reshaping the way we think about plot, character, and theatrical style. We will place a strong emphasis on issues of “form” as well as “content.” That is, we will be discussing not just what we think a play means, but how we think it creates meaning through its form and structure. These are new plays, some of them are shocking plays, but they all expand our conceptions of what a play can be. I have consciously avoided any attempt to “group” the plays in this course into sub-categories – either by virtue of subject matter, form, race, or gender -- so expect to be changing gears rapidly from class to class, play to play.
Required Texts (in bookstore):

Cloud Nine, Caryl Churchill

Top Girls, Caryl Churchill

Yankee Dog You Die, Philip Kan Gotanda

Gum, Karen Hartman

The Laramie Project, Moises Kaufman

Angels in America, Part One, Tony Kushner

Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet

Topdog/Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks

Venus, Suzan‑Lori Parks

Roosters, Milcha Sanchez-Scott

How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel

Additional Required Readings/Videos are in library, on Blackboard, and/or in reader, as noted.

Schedule (subject to change):
8/30 Introduction. “The question of dramatic form…”

9/3 Philip Kan Gotanda, Yankee Dawg You Die

9/6 Labor Day

9/10 Milcha Sanchez-Scott, Roosters

9/13 Caryl Churchill, Top Girls, Act I

9/17 Top Girls, Act II

Handout: “Not My Revolution” essay

9/20 David Henry Hwang, Bondage

9/24 Caryl Churchill, Cloud Nine

9/27 Mickey Birnbaum, Bleed Rail

Handout: Slaughterhouse/Meat Industry Article

10/1 Paula Vogel, How I Learned to Drive

Handout: post-trauma – mind/body split reading

10/4 Anna Deavere Smith, Fires in the Mirror (view video in library)

First Essay Due

10/8 Moises Kaufman, The Laramie Project

Handout: Culture Clash / staging America essay

10/11 George Wolfe, The Colored Museum

Culture Clash, Mission Magic Mystery Tour

10/15 Naomi Iizuka, Skin (in Fringe)

10/18 Sam Shepard, States of Shock

Luis Valdez, Soldado Razo (handout)

Handout: Teatro Campesino / Chicano Theatre articles

10/22 Suzan-Lori Parks, Top Dog/ Underdog

Handout: “Possession of S-L Parks” article

10/25 Suzan-Lori Parks, Venus

Handout: bell hooks / “Consuming the ‘Other’” reading

10/29 Cherrie Moraga, “Sour Grapes” and “The Insatiable Woman” (handout)

& Moraga, The Hungry Woman, Act I (Fringe)

11/1 The Hungry Woman, Act II

Second Essay Due

11/5 Tim Miller, My Queer Body

Handout: The NEA Four and freedom of expression

11/8 Tony Kushner, Angels in America (Part One)

11/12 Octavio Solis, Lydia

11/15 Over Week-end, attend: Angels in America, Lefevre Theatre


11/22 “Sphinxes without Secrets” (in-class video)


11/29 David Mamet, Glengarry Glen Ross

12/3 TBA

Take-Home Final Distributed

Written Requirements:

-- Daily written responses to readings (neatly written or typed, must be submitted on day play is due! No late responses!)

-- 2 Short Essays

Each of the essays should be 4 - 5 pages, typed and double-spaced. Always make sure you have a copy of an essay before submitting your original! Most essays will be argumentative in nature -- you will begin with a thesis statement and argue your viewpoint, supported with evidence from the text. You may be required to undertake additional reading for the second essay.

Papers must be turned in on the date due, so plan ahead! Extensions will be given only if requests are made at least one class period in advance of due dates. No exceptions. Late papers will me marked down ½ grade per day.

-- 1 Take-Home Final Exam (essay form -- or something creative???-- 3-4 pages)

Participation / Attendance Policy: Since this course is based on discussion, it cannot be "made up" -- you must attend in order to participate. Excessive absences (more than two) will result in a lowered semester grade. There are no “excused absences.”

You have the responsibility to prepare well for class discussion and to participate actively in the discussion. You will be graded, in part, on the degree to which you demonstrate in class that you have read and thought about the assigned reading. If you are consistently silent in class, I will assume you are not prepared.

If you miss a class, you are personally responsible for checking with a classmate to assure that there have been no assignments given and no changes in the syllabus.


Roughly: 25% attendance/in-class participation (including responses*); 25% each of two papers; 25% Final Exam.

*Failure in area of in-class participation and responses can lead to failure in course regardless of grades in other areas.
Academic Honor Code

This course supports and upholds the conditions of the Academic Honor Code. Any suspected violations of that code will be discussed with the student involved and, if not resolved, brought before the Academic Honor Council.

Student Disability Services

Student Disability Services extends reasonable and appropriate accommodations that take into account the context of the course and its essential elements, for individuals with qualifying disabilities. Students with disabilities are encouraged to contact the Student Disability Services Coordinator at (925) 631-4164 to set up a confidential appointment to discuss accommodation guidelines and available services. Additional information regarding the services available may be found at the following address on the Saint May’s website: http://www.stmarys-ca.edu/academics/academic-advising-and-achievement/student-disability-services.html
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