English R1A

Reading and Composition: Performing Revenge

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2011 Bahr, Stephanie M
Bahr, Stephanie
MWF 3-4 222 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

The Oresteia; Medea; The Spanish Tragedy; Titus Andronicus; The Duchess of Malfi; Arden of Faversham

Required Films: Titus; The Crow; Sweeney Todd; Kill Bill


Murder, mutilation, madness, imprisonment, adultery, cannibalism, torture, and rape: this gruesome list forms not only revengers’ prime motives, but also the tools of their vengeance.  Is this only fitting or a perverse paradox?  What is the morality of vengeance-taking and what are the consequences for the individual and society?  Revenge narratives have long raised these troubling questions, yet their horror has continued to draw audiences to be terrified and titillated, entertained and, even at times, amused.  In this course, we will focus on three cultures particularly fascinated by the spectacle of revenge: ancient Greece, Renaissance England, and contemporary Hollywood.  Over the course of a dark, bloody semester, we shall grapple with some of the difficult questions these texts raise and explore how we might relate the revenge-ethos of these disparate periods.  What is revenge’s relationship to the public and the private?  How might revenge as performance blur these boundaries?  Is the audience called upon to condone or condemn revenge?  We shall engage these revenge texts through both vigorous (but never vengeful) class discussion and keen argumentative writing.  In addition to various written exercises, you will workshop two longer essays, no doubt butchering and gutting them mercilessly on their way to polished final drafts.  Though this course may disturb and dismay you, hopefully it will inspire you as well.

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