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Course Description

Drama combines the literary arts of storytelling and poetry with the world of live performance. As a form of ritual as well as entertainment, drama has served to unite communities and challenge social norms, to vitalize and disturb its audiences. In order to understand this rich art form more fully, we will study and discuss a sampling of plays that exemplify different kinds of dramatic structure; class members will also participate in, attend, and review dramatic performances.

This course fulfills the HASS-Distribution requirement for category 3 (Performing Arts). HASS-D courses are designed to introduce you to a large and diverse field of inquiry, and include substantial writing (20 pp. minimum) and a major discussion component. This is also a HASS Communication-Intensive Course, in which we will work on improving your skills, awareness, and confidence as a writer and speaker.

Introduction to Drama has five overarching "super-objectives":

  1. To provide the tools and nurture your ability to read drama, fictions, and rituals of other cultures seriously, appreciatively, pleasurably, and critically, helping you to become a "lifelong learner."

  2. To increase your consciousness of ethical, historical, political and artistic questions and approaches to the world, so that you can function more sensitively, intelligently and effectively in the world.

  3. To encourage a clearer understanding of your own personal skills and creativity, increasing your self-awareness and the accuracy of your self-analysis, so that you can sustain a realistic sense of confidence and are better positioned to achieve whatever goals you set for yourself.

  4. To improve and refine your abilities to express and communicate ideas, feelings, and arguments effectively and persuasively, so that you can know what you believe and can work and lead as a member of a team or community.

  5. To encourage your understanding, enjoyment, attendance to and participation in theater, for its own sake.

Each class period has its own objectives and assignments, contributing to these larger goals.


Klaus, Carl H., Miriam Gilbert, and Bradford S. Field, Jr., eds. Stages of Drama: Classical to Contemporary Theater. 5th ed. [n.b.]. Boston: Bedford/ St. Martin's, 2003. ISBN: 031239733X.

Noh drama (xerox).

Writing Requirements

Written work should be typed or word-processed (double-spaced).

I ask that you write:

  1. Focused, analytic response papers (two-three pages each) on four of the plays we read or attend. Choose a particular scene, speech, verbal pattern, theatrical device, dimension of staging, or minor character, and discuss precisely how it contributes to the play or performance. After you receive my comments, you will revise these papers, with the writing tutor's assistance, and receive a letter grade. (8-12 pages total)

  2. A theatrical scene, with dialogue. This will receive comments, not a letter grade. (3-5 pages)

  3. An essay based on your research into the role of drama and performance in a country other than England plus your reading of a play or performance script from that country. You will want to examine a minimum of five credible scholarly sources of information about the country's drama and/or the play you have chosen. In your essay, analyze the play within its cultural context (8-10 pages). I will provide a stylesheet which includes information about proper citation of sources; if you have any lingering doubts regarding the use of material beyond the text itself, please speak with me before submitting your work. It should go without saying that this essay must be your own best thinking, and that plagiarism will not be tolerated: if you have questions about research methods and citation, please ask. (8-10 pages)

Other Requirements

Like drama itself, this course will rely on lively interchange; therefore attendance and full participation are required. This means having read the plays carefully and on time, having some specific responses to them that you are willing to share, being sufficiently alert to join in a lively conversation, and being willing to participate in readings and scene enactments. We will attend at least one play as a group, and you will attend at least one more play. During the latter half of the course, I will ask you (in groups) to lead the discussion of one play, and to perform in a scene from it as part of that process. You will also give a brief (5-minute) presentation based on your research paper, sharing your most interesting insights with the class.

I will consider each of the requirements in determining your grade. If you cannot be in class or meet a deadline because of an emergency, please speak with me (in advance, if possible); otherwise, absences and late papers will adversely affect your grade.

Approximate Weighting

Attendance and Full Participation (Including Conferences, Performances, Videos) 20%
Scene Composition, Paper Presentation and Class Leadership 20%
Response Essays 20%
Research Essay 20%
Final Examination 20%

I reserve the right to alter the weighting somewhat in exceptional circumstances; usually this works to your advantage. If written work is incomplete or attendance is infrequent, you will not pass the course.

This is a twelve-unit course, which assumes that you will allot nine hours/week outside the classroom for reading, writing, rehearsing, conferring, and thinking deep thoughts about drama.

In addition to welcoming your participation in class, I encourage you to discuss your ideas and your writing with me during my office hours, or at other times convenient for us both. 

Literature Section Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism - use of another's intellectual work without acknowledgement - is a serious offense. It is the policy of the Literature Faculty that students who plagiarise 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 in the Writing and Communication Center and the MIT Web site on Plagiarism.

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