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Card-index course

Experiments in Theater, 1950 to the Present

Responsible Faculty: Faculty of Arts

Teacher(s): Kevin Curran

Validity: 2020 -> 2020

Course Timetable (Weekly)

Date Location Notice Topics Lecturer(s)
2020/2021 : Monday 14:15-16:00 (Weekly) Synathlon/2420     Kevin Curran


Spring semester
2 hours per week
28 hours per semester
Teaching language(s): English
Public: Yes
Credits: 5.00


Almost all the major avant-garde movements of western theater had come to fruition by 1950: the realism of Henrik Ibsen and August Strindberg, the Verfremdungseffekt of Bertolt Brecht, the théâtre de la cruauté of Antonin Artaud. So what was left to do? How did playwrights in the second half of the twentieth century forge paths that were challenging and new? This MA seminar sets out to answer these questions by exploring a selection of English and American plays written between 1950 and our own time, each of which advances a new theatrical idiom or uses established modernist techniques in new ways. Samuel Beckett creates absurd worlds that are at once comic and philosophical; Luis Valdez and Caryl Churchill draw on Brechtian techniques to explore modern questions of politics, identity, and gender; Tony Kushner and Suzan-Lori Parks craft plays that combine realist, symbolist, and mythic features; Anna Deavere-Smith pushes naturalism to its radical extreme with "documentary theater"; Howard Barker writes a minimalist, prop-driven play that examines how objects become enchanted, both in the theater and in our lives; and Sarah Kane, in a play that shocked London audiences with its over-the-top violence, tests the limits of what can be represented on stage. By the end of this course, students will have gained four things: (1) a solid understanding of some of the most important playwrights of the later twentieth century; (2) a sense of both the continuities and disjunctions between the pre- and post-War theatrical avant-garde; (3) an understanding of the flexible relationship between theatrical form and spectator experience; and (4) an affirmation of theater's enduring ability to reinvent itself and challenge audiences-aesthetically, intellectually, and morally.


Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot (Grove) Caryl Churchill, Cloud 9 (TCG) Luis Valdez, Zoot Suit (Arte Publico) Tony Kushner, Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (TCG) Anna Deavere-Smith, Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 (Anchor) Sarah Kane, Blasted (Methuen) Suzan-Lori Parks, Topdog/Underdog (TCG) Howard Barker, Plays Two (we will read 13 Objects) (Oberon Books) Available at "Books, Books, Books" in Lausanne.

Additional information


Use contextFaculty codeStatusCredits
Master of Arts (MA), Specialisation "Theatrical studies" (2013 ->) ›› Theaters, literatures and cultures - MA-SPEC-ET-02Optional5.00
Master of arts, English (2015 ->) ›› English Literature - MA-ANG-3010Optional5.00
Master of arts, English (2015 ->) ›› Oral examination based on a research file - MA-ANG-2020Optional5.00
Master of arts, English (2015 ->) ›› Writing essay based on a research file - MA-ANG-2010Optional5.00
Master of arts, Reinforcement programme (2015 ->) ›› English Literature - MA-RENF-ANGOptional5.00
Canton de Vaud
Swiss University
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