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THTRFLM 1T03 Theatre, Cinema & Society

Academic Year: Spring/Summer 2017

Term: Spring

Day/Evening: E

Instructor: Prof. Glen Norton


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 434

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23719

Office Hours: Wednesdays 5pm-5:50pm

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)
Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing (Tomson Highway, 1989)
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)
I Love You, Man (John Hamberg, 2009, 105m)
Avatar (James Cameron, 2009, 162m)

Method of Assessment:

Attendance: 10%
Participation: 10%
Short Essay 1 due in dropbox Tues May 16th, 6pm: 15%
Short Essay 2 due in dropbox Thurs June 8th , 6pm: 15%
Midterm Exam in class Wed May 17th (1 hour): 15%
Final Exam in class Wed June 14th (2.5 hours): 35%

Detailed descriptions and requirements for assignments can be found on Avenue to Learn. 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 work submitted and graded during the term. All essay assignments must be submitted to the appropriate Avenue to Learn dropbox. The instructor may also request printed versions of assignments to be submitted. Students in this course will have received 10% of their final grade by May 31st, 2017.

Attendance at all lectures is compulsory. Attendance will not be taken during the first lecture. At the beginning of every subsequent lecture (10 in all), students will be asked to sign an attendance sheet. Students will receive 1% for every signature, for a possible total of 10%. 

Participation is crucial to the success of our class. Students are required to complete all assigned readings and film screenings in order to come prepared to participate. Lectures will consist of a combination of PowerPoint presentations and analyses of selected clip screenings and readings providing context for the week’s topic, as well as class discussions on lecture material, assigned films and readings. The participation mark for the course will reflect the quality of the student’s participation in these discussions. A high quality of participation depends on careful reading of assigned material and careful consideration of information and opinions presented by the professor and fellow students during lectures and discussions. Attendance is required to participate, but attendance alone does not count as participation. Students with regular attendance who intelligently and thoughtfully participate the most will receive top grades. Participation marks can not be made up due to missed classes, regardless of the reason. Remember to check Avenue to Learn on a regular basis for course updates and announcements.

The first 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 first short essay is due in the designated Avenue to Learn dropbox no later than 6pm on Tuesday May 16th.

The second short essay will ask you to compare how meaning is created via the use of specific cinematic elements in The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt. Full requirements will be made available on Avenue to Learn. The second short essay is due in the designated Avenue to Learn dropbox no later than 6pm on Thursday June 8th.

The in-class midterm exam will take place Wednesday May 17th and cover assigned readings and films, material discussed in lectures, and skills practiced in class discussions covered in the course up to this point. The midterm exam will consist of multiple choice and short answer questions. Specific details will be announced. The midterm exam will be 1 hour in length.

The in-class final exam will take place Wednesday June 14th and cover assigned readings and films, material discussed in lectures, and skills practiced in class discussions throughout the entirety of the course. The final exam will consist of multiple choice, short answer and essay questions. Specific details will be announced. The final exam will be 2.5 hours in length.


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 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:

Monday May 1: Theatre, Cinema and Ideology/Elements of Theatrical Production
Read: “Introduction: Drama, Theatre and Culture” (1-9)

Wednesday May 3: Elements of Cinematic Production 

Monday May 8: Patriarchal Ideology in Social Realist Theatre and Silent Cinema
Read:     Henrik Ibsen (415-17); A Doll House (418-40)
Watch: The Female of the Species

Wednesday May 10: The Ideological Aims of Epic Theatre and Brechtian Cinema
Read:     Bertolt Brecht (519-22); Mother Courage and Her Children (523-47); “The Street Scene” 
Watch: Vivre sa vie

Monday May 15: Reading Gender in Popular Cinema/Exam Review 
Watch: I Love You, Man

Wednesday May 17: MIDTERM EXAM (1 hour)        

Monday May 22: Victoria Day – NO CLASSES

Wednesday May 24: Devised Theatre and Post-Colonialism
Read:     Caryl Churchill (572-5); Cloud Nine (576-600) 

Monday May 29: Multimedia Theatre and Globalization
Read:     Manjula Padmanabhan (1016-17); Harvest (1018-46)

Wednesday May 31: From Silent Cinema to First Nations Video Art
Watch: The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt 

Monday June 5: First Nations Theatre
Read:     Tomson Highway (987-90); Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing (991-1015)

Wednesday June 7: Racial Ideology in Silent, Classical and “New” Hollywood
Read:     “The Fact of Blackness” (1047-57)

Monday June 12: Reading Post-Colonialism and Race in Popular Cinema/Exam Review
Watch: Avatar

Wednesday June 14: FINAL EXAM (2.5 hours)