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THTRFLM 1T03 Theatre, Cinema & Society

Academic Year: Winter 2016

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Glen Norton


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 434

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23719

Office Hours: Friday 3:30pm-4:20pm TSH 434

Course Objectives:

The Theatre and Film Studies program examines the complex ways in which theatre and film production engage audiences with the cultural and social forces at work in their society. Dramatic storytelling in theatre and cinema is a form of communication that uses actions and material objects drawn from our everyday worlds to create fictional worlds in which we can test hypotheses about human relationships and social structures. Some artists are explicitly aware of this function and the potential it contains for promoting social change, while others operate within their society’s dominant ideologies creating work that supports current cultural norms. In this course, students will analyze a range of theatre and cinema forms representative of the creative work studied in the Theatre and Film Studies program. By the end of the course, students will be able to imagine productions of play texts, recommending specific production choices that will engage a McMaster audience with central issues in those texts, and analyze the creative decisions behind cinematic productions in order to reveal the way they affirm or challenge values and patterns of interaction that structure everyday lives. They will also learn how to write effective papers that analyze performance and the way creative choices structure audience response.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Textbook:

  • Wadsworth Anthology of Drama, brief sixth edition, available at the Bookstore

Specific plays to read (in Wadsworth):

  • Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House
  • Brecht, Bertolt. Mother Courage and her Children
  • Churchill, Carol. Cloud Nine
  • Padmanabhan, Manjula. Harvest


  • Cameron, James. Avatar – rentable
  • Griffith, D.W. The Female of the Species – class screening (also accessible on YouTube)
  • Griffith, D.W. The Battle of Elderbush Gulch – class screening (also accessible on YouTube)
  • Niro, Shelley. The Shirt – class screening (also accessible on online)

Students are also required to attend one of the School of the Arts Honours Performance Series productions. Details will be announced.

Method of Assessment:

Method of Assessment:

  • Short Essay on A Doll House: due Friday Feb 5th (5%)
  • Midterm Test: in class Friday Feb 12th (10%)
  • Group Presentation in Tutorial: sign up in tutorial Jan 11th-15th (15%)
  • Individual Essay based on Group Presentation: due one week after presentation (20%)
  • Participation (20%)
  • Final Exam (30%)


Detailed descriptions of assignments will be found on the course website. Please consult these instructions before beginning work on your assignments. All written assignments, with the exception of exams and multiple-choice tests, must be typed. Students must retain copies of all pieces of work submitted and graded during the term.  All essay assignments must be submitted to the assigned AVENUE TO LEARN DROPBOXES. TAs may also request a printed version of the paper to be submitted in tutorial. Papers will be automatically submitted to Turnitin from the Avenue Dropboxes.


Tutorials will start the week of Jan 11th-15th.  All students will be assigned to a tutorial, which is an integral part of the course. Tutorials provide the opportunity for students to develop their analytical skills, test their ideas and engage in more in-depth discussion than is possible in the lecture context.  Assignments, with the exception of multiple choice tests and the final exam, will be given out and presented in tutorials and will be marked by teaching assistants under the supervision of the instructor.

short essay on A Doll House will test your ability to use a particular element of dramatic performance to engage an audience with an important issue in Ibsen's A Doll House.  It will also test your ability to make a convincing argument in favour of your proposed use of this production element.  This assignment is largely diagnostic and should help you understand the expectations of the course before you complete your oral presentation and longer written assignment.

A short multiple-choice test will examine your knowledge of the material covered in the course to this point. It will also help you prepare for the multiple-choice section on the Final Exam.

For group presentations on plays you will imagine that you are a production team applying to produce your particular play. You will focus on the performance of one scene and show how your production choices will create social perspective on the action of the scene. For group presentations on films you will imagine that you are applying to a film festival committee and argue why your chosen film should be included in the festival, analyzing how the specific choices made by the filmmakers create a social perspective important to the mandate of the festival. A 15 minute presentation of the proposal will be made in tutorial. Details of the assignment can be found on the course website. Students will sign up for a specific presentation date in tutorial the week of Jan 11th-15th.

Following discussion of their oral presentation in the tutorial, each group member will have 1 week to edit a 4-5 page individual essay arguing for the significance of the particular use of the production element on which they concentrated in the oral presentation. When developing this essay, students should clearly identify ideas and information that were generated in group discussion or contributed by another group member and distinguish these from material they themselves have generated for the individual essay.

The final exam will cover assigned readings and screenings, material discussed in lectures and skills practiced in the tutorial sessions.  It will include multiple choice and short answer questions.

Attendance at lectures and tutorials is compulsory.  Students are expected to have completed assigned readings and view assigned films BEFORE the relevant lectures and tutorials.  Lectures will not summarize the text or describe the films and students will gain more from lectures if they are already familiar with the work and have already considered the social values it embodies. Students who are absent for their group presentation or the tutorial they have signed up to report on will receive a grade of zero unless they present documentation to the Faculty office justifying their absence on that day.

The participation mark for the course will reflect the quality of the student's participation in tutorials, class and on-line discussions.  A high quality of participation depends on careful reading of assigned material and careful consideration of information and opinions presented by the professor, teaching assistants and fellow students in lectures, tutorials and online discussions. Unless the student has significant and verifiable telepathic abilities, s/he should consider that physical presence in the classroom is a necessary precondition for participation. 

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late assignments are penalized at 5%/day and will not be accepted if more than one week late.


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:


Week 1 – Introduction

Jan 6 Introduction

Jan 8 Realism, Formalism and the Languages of Performance

Week 2 – Theatre and Cinema as Cultural Discourse (Tutorials begin Monday Jan 11)

Jan 13 Theatre

Jan 15 Cinema

Tutorial: Introductions and Discussion of Course Objectives/Sign up for Presentations


Week 3 – Dramatic Theatre

Jan 20 Cultural Context for A Doll House – Social Realism (Read A Doll House before this class)

Jan 22 Lecture on A Doll House

Tutorial: Preparing for the Short Essay

Week 4 – Epic Theatre and Brechtian Cinema

Jan 27 Mother Courage as Epic Theatre (Read Mother Courage before this class)

Jan 29 Brecht’s Influence on Cinematic Discourse

Tutorial: Discussion of A Doll House 

Week 5 –  Film Form

Feb 3 Classical Elements: Mise-en-scene and Cinematography           

Feb 5 Classical Elements: Editing (Short Essay on A Doll House due in Dropbox)

Tutorial: Discussion of Mother Courage and Brechtian Cinema

Week 6 – Film Form continued

Feb 10 Alternatives to Classical Editing

Feb 12 MIDTERM        

Tutorial: Discussion of Film Form

Feb 15-19 – READING WEEK


Week 7 – Colonialism and Post-Colonialism

Feb 24 Lecture/Demonstration: How to create a presentation for this class (Watch The Female of the Species before this class)

Feb 26 Cultural Contexts: Early American Cinema and Canadian Video Art (Watch The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt before this class)

Read Franz Fanon, “The Fact of Blackness,” in Worthen, pp. 1047-1057

Tutorial: Discussion of Midterm

Week 8 – Devised Theatre 

March 2 Cultural Contexts: Devised Theatre (Read Cloud Nine before this class)

March 4 Lecture on Cloud Nine

Tutorial: The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt Presentations

Week 9 – Theatre and Multi-Media

March 9 Cultural Contexts: Theatre and Multi-Media (Read Harvest before this class)

March 11 Lecture on Harvest  

Tutorial: Cloud Nine Presentations

Week 10 – Hollywood and Ideology

March 16 Structure of Classical and “New” Hollywood           

March 18 Cultural Contexts: Hollywood and Dominant Ideology (Watch Avatar before this class)

Tutorial: Harvest Presentations

Week 11 – Hollywood continued

March 23 Lecture on Avatar


Tutorial: No Tutorials


Week 12 – Performance Creation as Problem Solving

March 30-April 1 Discussion with members of Honor’s Performance Series production teams 

Tutorial: Avatar Presentations

Week 13 – Review

April 6-8 Exam Review