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THTRFLM 1T03 Theatre,Cinema&Society

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Glen Norton


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 434

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23719

Office Hours: Monday 11:30am-12:30pm

Course Objectives:

The Theatre and Film Studies program examines the complex ways in which theatre and cinema production engage audiences with the ideological and cultural forces at work in 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 theatrical and cinematic texts 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 theatrical texts, recommending specific production choices that will engage audiences 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 our everyday lives. Students will also learn how to write effective papers that analyze performances and evaluate ways in which creative choices structure audience responses.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Textbook:

  • Worthen, W.B. The Wadsworth Anthology of Drama, Brief 6th ed., 2011 (in bookstore)

Plays (in Wadsworth):

  • A Doll House (Henrik Ibsen, 1879)
  • Mother Courage and her Children (Bertolt Brecht, 1939)
  • Cloud Nine (Carol Churchill, 1979)
  • Harvest (Manjula Padmanabhan, 1999)

Films (linked on Avenue to Learn):

  • The Female of the Species (D.W. Griffith, 1912, 14m)
  • The Battle of Elderbush Gulch (D.W. Griffith, 1913, 29m)
  • Vivre sa vie (Jean-Luc Godard, 1962, 85m)
  • The Shirt (Shelley Niro, 2003, 6m)
  • Avatar (James Cameron, 2009, 162m)

Students are also required to attend one of the Winter SOTA theatrical productions. Details will be announced.

Method of Assessment:

Short Essay on A Doll House due Feb 8 (5%)
Midterm Test in class Feb 15 (10%)
Group Presentation in Tutorial (15%)
Individual Essay based on Group Presentation due one week after presentation (20%)
Participation (20%)
Final Exam (30%)

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. Extensions may be granted for extreme medical or personal issues at the instructor’s discretion; however, they must be negotiated before the assignment is due. Overwork is not a valid reason for granting extensions. Late assignments must deposited in the appropriate Avenue to Learn assignment dropbox.

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:

Wed Jan 4 - Introduction: Theatre, Cinema and Ideology
Read: “Introduction: Drama, Theatre and Culture” (1-9)

Week 1 (Jan 9-11): Basic Elements of Theatrical Production (Tutorials begin Jan 9)    
Tutorial: Introductions and Discussion of Course Objectives 

Week 2 (Jan 16-18): Basic Elements of Cinematic Production
Tutorial: Discussion of Basic Elements of Theatrical Production

Week 3 (Jan 23-25): Patriarchal Ideology and Social Realist Theatre 
Read: Henrik Ibsen (415-17); A Doll House (418-40)
Tutorial: Discussion of Basic Elements of Cinematic Production

Week 4 (Jan 30-Feb 1): Ideological Aims of Epic Theatre 
Read: Bertolt Brecht (519-22); Mother Courage and Her Children (523-47); “The Street Scene” (636-40)
Tutorial: Discussion of A Doll House/Preparing for the Short Essay

Week 5 (Feb 6-8): Ideological Aims of Brechtian Cinema (Short Essay on A Doll House due Feb 8)
Watch: Vivre sa vie 
Tutorial: Discussion of Mother Courage 

Week 6 (Feb 13-15):
Mon Feb 13: Review for Midterm 
Tutorial: Discussion of Vivre sa vie 


Week 7 (Feb 27-March 1): Discussion of Tutorial Presentations and Presentation Example
Watch: The Female of the Species 
Tutorial: Discussion of Midterm/Signup for Presentations

Week 8 (March 6-8): Colonial/Post-Colonial Ideology in Early Silent Cinema and First Nations Video Art
Watch: The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt
Tutorial: No tutorials this week

Week 9 (March 13-15): Devised Theatre and Post-Colonialism
Read: Caryl Churchill (572-5); Cloud Nine (576-600) 
Tutorial: The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt Presentations 

Week 10 (March 20-22): Multimedia Theatre and Globalization
Read: Manjula Padmanabhan (1016-17); Harvest (1018-46)
Tutorial: Cloud Nine Presentations 

Week 11 (March 27-29): Reading Post-Colonialism and Race in Popular Cinema
Watch: Avatar
Read: “The Fact of Blackness” (1047-57)
Tutorial: Harvest Presentations

Week 12: (April 3-5): Discussion with members of SOTA theatrical production teams and Exam Review
Tutorial: Avatar Presentations

Other Course Information:

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 ASSIGNMENT DROPBOX. TAs may also request a printed version of the paper to be submitted in tutorial. Students in this course will have received 10% of their final grade by March 10, 2017.

Attendance at lectures and tutorials is compulsory. Attendance will be taken in tutorials. 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.  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 and tutorials. Unless the student has significant and verifiable telepathic abilities, s/he should consider that physical presence in tutorial is a necessary precondition for participation. 

Tutorials will start the week of Jan 9th. 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.

A short essay will test your ability to envision the use of a particular element of dramatic performance to engage an audience with an important issue in A Doll House. It will also test your ability to make a convincing argument in favour of your proposed use of this production element. Full requirements will be made available on Avenue to Learn. The short essay is due in the designated Avenue to Learn assignment dropbox no later than 11:59pm on Wed Feb 8th.

A short multiple-choice midterm 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. The Midterm test will take place in lecture Wed Feb 15th.

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. 

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.