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THR 308 - Metatheater, Then and Now

In 1963, Lionel Abel invented the term "metatheater" to discuss self-referential, anti-illusionist devices -- introduced, as he thought, by some Renaissance playwrights -- which had become ubiquitous in the theater of his day. "Very meta!" was soon used to describe almost every play ever written. But some plays are more "meta" than others and the methods and motives of their authors vary considerably. This seminar will spend six weeks focused on Greek, Renaissance, and Modern examples of the genre before turning to contemporary American playwrights who have found new and often jaw-dropping uses for metatheatrics. Some of the other authors we'll discuss: Shakespeare, Francis Beaumont (The Knight of the Burning Pestle), Calderon (Life is a Dream), Pirandello, Beckett, Genet, Adrienne Kennedy, Jackie Sibblies Drury, and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Whenever possible, we will watch recordings of our plays or other visual resources that illuminate the issues involved in this form of theater. Reading: One or two plays per week, plus 20-30 pages of theater history, theory, and criticism. Writing: Two 1800-2400 word essays and weekly Discussion Group posts of 250 words (Other 10%).
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