Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.

THTRFLM 3U03 Pleasure & Critique In Drams

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Catherine Graham


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 403

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27665

Office Hours: Monday noon to 1:00 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

Dramatic performances that deal with social issues are often working with and between two seemingly contradictory mandates.  The first is a mandate to encourage critique of dominant cultural values, a task that demands that audience members do the sometimes uncomfortable work of questioning their own social position and beliefs.  The second mandate is to provide a pleasurable social experience for audiences who are engaging with performance events during leisure time.  Students in this course will consider the strategies used in different forms of dramatic performance to create pleasurable experiences while asking audiences to question the world around them.  Can the pleasures offered by dramatic performance encourage critical thinking?  What conditions must exist for a performance to produce pleasure while encouraging critique of accepted social norms and beliefs?  Students will reflect on a range of strategies for combining pleasure and critique in dramatic performances and, by the end of the course, will be able to situate these strategies in the context of contemporary scholarly and critical writing.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Critical articles available on Avenue.

Jonathan Larson. Rent (Movie Version). (Available for rent or purchase on iTunes, Netflix, and can be viewed in Mills Library.)

Headlines Theatre. Practicing Democracy.  (DVD to be viewed in class, available in Mills Library.)

Theatre Parminou.  Recounting our Riches. (available through Avenue link to Canadian Theatre Review 157)

Carlo Goldoni. Servant of Two Masters.  (Bookstore)

Jane Wagner. The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe. (bookstore)

Tony Kushner. Angels in America, A Gay Fantasia on National Themes (bookstore)

Dario Fo. Accidental Death of an Anarchist. (bookstore)

David Hare. Stuff Happens. (bookstore)

Marcus Youssef, Guillermo Verdecchia, Camyar Chai. Ali and Ali and the Axes of Evil. (bookstore)

Carmen Aguirre. Refugee Hotel. (bookstore)


Method of Assessment:

NB  Every student must sign up for EITHER a Group Presentation OR a Response Paper to be done in February.  Do not sign up for a Response Paper in the same week in which you are presenting. If you do so, the instructor will reassign you to another week.  This will ensure that all students receive at least 10% of their grade by March 11, in keeping with University requirements.

Group Presentation (sign up for ONE OF Feb.1, 3, 25, Mar 10, 24 on Avenue)                                   10%

Students will work in groups of 3 to find reviews and analyses that will allow them consider how a particular dramatic work studied in the course has, or might, work for a particular kind of audience. Two groups will present for 15 minutes each on the assigned dates.  Each group will make an argument for presenting the play they have chosen as part of an imaginary theatre company’s season of work in 2016.  Sign up for presentation dates and get detailed assignment instructions on AVENUE. 

Post-Presentation Paper (due in Avenue Dropbox one week after presentation)                               25%

A 750-1,000 word paper summarizing the individual student’s argument about how the strategy used in the dramatic performance being considered and the conditions that would have to be put in place for a successful performance event for the audience they have defined.  The paper should cite evidence of published analyses of the text and its previous productions, or of other work done by the original producing company to support its central argument.  It should also take into account and respond to any issues raised in class discussion or in response papers dealing with their presentation.

Response Paper                                                                                                                                         15%

(sign up for ONE OF Feb.1, 3, 25, Mar 10, 24 on Avenue, paper due in Dropbox 4 days later)      

Within four days of the presentations you have signed up to respond to, submit a 350-500 word response to the two presentations to the appropriate discussion board on Avenue.  In your response, imagine that you are a member of a committee that must decide which of these two plays would be best suited for production in Hamilton in 2016.  Your paper should make a clear argument about why you believe this play would be most appropriate for the season you envision and should support this argument with examples from the presentation, class discussion and critical readings.  

Final Exam                                                                                                                                                     40%

The exam will test the breadth of student’s knowledge of different approaches to the problem of pleasure and critique in dramatic performance, as studied in class.

Participation                                                                                                                                                  10%

Attendance at all classes is compulsory.  Students will be expected to come to class prepared to engage in discussion based on careful reading/viewing of the dramatic performances we are discussing and of the assigned critical readings.

Bonus Marks                                                                                                                                                   5%

Students may submit a critique of live professional performance seen between January 6th and March 31st to a discussion board on Avenue.  Submissions will be evaluated out of 5 points.  If in doubt about the performance you propose to discuss, please consult with Dr. Graham ahead of time.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Extensions will only be granted for individual work if requested before the deadline.

There is a 2% per day penalty for late assignments and no assignment will be accepted more than 7 days after it is due, except in the case of verifiable illness, accident or personal emergency.  Students who miss their Group Presentation will receive a grade of 0 for that assignment.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

A complete schedule of topics and readings is available on the course Avenue site.