English 100

Junior Seminar: Tragedy, Agony, Vision, and Death

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Fall 2005 Altman, Joel B.
Altman, Joel
TTh 2-3:30 283 Dwinelle
Other Readings and Media

Aeschylus: Oresteia; Beckett: Waiting for Godot; Euripides: Medea and Other Plays; Miller: Death of a Salesman; Marlowe: Doctor Faustus; O'Neill: Long Day's Journey into Night; Shakespeare: Coriolanus; Sophocles: Sophocles I; Webster: The Duchess of Malfi; Course Reader (available at Copygrafik, 2282 Fulton St.).


"In this course, we will explore the dramatic genre of tragedy as it has manifested itself at three different times in history: Athens in the 5th century, B.C.; late 16th- and early 17th-century England, and 20th-century France and America. All the plays we'll read represent human beings in extreme situations; several end in death, mutilation, or both; others, in a kind of psychic death or inertia. Some represent behavior that we recognize as ""heroic"" and leave us feeling reassured; some do not. All show the individual imaginatively engaged to social and metaphysical powers, and--more immediately--to the audience of spectators. Our project will be to try to understand how tragic drama functions in its various environments; what conditions encourage the writing of tragedy; which elements may be said to constitute ""the tragic""; what lies behind tragic drama's obsession with transgressive acts; what happens when there seems nothing left to violate; and whether and what manner of redemption is to be sought in tragedy, even in the twentieth century, when the possibility of tragedy was in doubt. Besides studying the plays, we'll read and discuss theoretical and critical writings in a Course Reader that will help us pursue these questions. All seminar members are expected to participate actively and to write three essays and a final exam. "

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