Descriptions of My Courses offered at Wesleyan and elsewhere since 2002


HUMS 638 Modern Drama

Summer 2007
It can be argued that the exact moment that modern drama was born was on December 4, 1879 when Nora Helmer in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House was first heard slamming the door and leaving her respectable life for an uncertain future of self-discovery.
HUMS 638 Modern DramaIbsen’s blow to drama is equally explosive and reverberating. Ibsen revitalized drama as instrument for exploring the deepest psychological, social, and moral truths. If Ibsen changed the subjects for modern drama, it is Chekhov who altered dramatic conventions that had been relied upon since the Ancient Greeks. Both playwrights will set the context for an immersion into the world of modern drama and a close, critical engagement with some of the touchstone works of the modern theater.

In a stimulating five days of lectures, discussions, screenings, and performance, students will confront ten significant modern plays placed in multiple contexts to enhance appreciation of individual achievement and their wider contributions to the development of modern drama. Beginning with the foundations figures of Ibsen and Chekhov, we will consider the drama that they reacted against and transformed in their two greatest plays. We will next consider how two Irish playwrights exploded the conventions of the drawing room comedy before considering the twentieth-century’s most innovative dramatists, Brecht and Beckett. Two American playwrights, O’Neill and Miller, will supply the context for a consideration of modern tragedy, and the course will conclude with two contemporary playwrights, Churchill and Kushner, to consider the current state of drama.

Discussions of the playwrights’ career, methods, and achievement will be supplemented by scene analyses and performances, as well as screening of film version of several of the plays. Students will share in the facilitation of discussions and will select an additional play from the works of such dramatists as Strindberg, Synge, Yeats, Pirandello, O’Casey, Williams, Pinter, Albee, Stoppard and others and write a critical analysis relating the play to the contexts of modern drama developed in the course.

CSOC 2120 Reading Historical Fiction

Fall 2007
This course will focus on the perennially popular but contested form of historical fiction.
CSOC 2120 Reading Historical FictionNo other genre of the novel has so dominated both bestseller lists and literary prizes or selections of the best books of the year. Historians, however, have complained about the historical novel’s violations of facts, insisting that the past should be undiluted by make-believe, while proponents of fiction have criticized the historical novel’s obsession with period accuracy at the expense of the imagination. This course will examine the reading experience when history is treated as a fictional subject. We will take are our central text Marc C. Carnes’s Novel History: Historians and Novelists Confront America’s Past (and Each Other), while drawing on examples from some of the best modern examples of the form, including Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, Doctorow’s Ragtime, and Pat Barker’s Regeneration. Several films, including Spartacus, Glory, and Michael Collins, will also be considered. The course will attempt to demonstrate the critical issues facing the historical novelist and the ways in which historical fiction can be appreciated and enjoyed.

WRIT 1002 Writing Historical Fiction

Fall 2007
WRIT 1002 Writing Historical Fiction The course will be devoted to the practical challenge of writing historical fiction, utilizing testimony from several writers (including former GLSP students) who have tried their hand composing historical fiction.
To experience the challenge of tackling history fictionally, students will be given several writing exercises dealing with converting memory to fiction and adjusting fiction to history.

Each student will be guided in choosing a particular historical era for research and developing a historical novel project while considering such popular sub-genres of the historical novel as historical mysteries, fictional biographies, and historical fantasy. The course, Reading Historical Fiction, listed above, serves as a helpful (but not required) springboard to this course.