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THTRFLM 3U03 Pleasure & Critique In Drams

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Catherine Graham


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 403

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27665

Office Hours: Wednesday 1:30 to 2:30 or by appointment.

Course Objectives:

Students will develop a deeper understanding of how dramatic performances that deal with social issues are called upon to work with and between two seemingly contradictory mandates. Since drama is created on the basis of conflict or contradictions in dominant cultural values, one mandate of dramatic performance is to encourage critique of those values, a task that demands that audience members do the sometimes uncomfortable work of questioning their own social position and beliefs.  This may seem to come into conflict with the second mandate of dramatic performance, which 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 using pleasure to catalyze critique, and vice versa, and, by the end of the course, will be able to situate their own viewing and creation 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)

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

Marie Clements.  Burning Vision. (available through Avenue link to library e-book)

Tony Kushner. Angels in AmericaA Gay Fantasia on National Themes (bookstore)

Students who wish to submit a performance review for bonus marks are responsible for purchasing their own tickets. Information about theatres with student rates will be posted on Avenue.



Method of Assessment:

NB  Every student must sign up for EITHER a Group Presentation OR a Response Paper to be done before the end of February.  This will ensure that all students receive at least 10% of their final grade by March 16th. 

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. Dr. Graham reserves the right to rearrange presentation and response group memberships to ensure that all members of the class get timely feedback

Group Presentation (sign up for ONE OF Jan. 24, Feb.7, 28, Mar 14, 28 on Avenue)                                   10%

Students will work in groups of 2 or 3 to fin d 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 festival to be produced in the summer of 2018.  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 how they would create the conditions 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 to respond to the presentation on ONE OF  Jan. 24, Feb.7, 28, Mar 14, 28  on Avenue; response is due on Avenue discussion board 4 days later ( Jan. 28, Feb.11, Mar.4, 18, or April 1)     

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 the imaginary festival the class is creating. Your paper should demonstrate that you have listened carefully and respectfully to both presentations and should make a clear argument about why would choose one of the performances for the festival. Support your 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, and their ability to evaluate the potential social and cultural impacts of different combinations of performance strategies.

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.





Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Attendace at all classes is compulsory.  While I recognize that emergencies sometimes make it possible to meet deadlines, extensions will only be granted for individual work if requested before the deadline, though I am willing to discuss exceptional circumstances.

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.  In fairness to other members of their group, students should make every effort to be present for their group presentation.  Students who miss their Group Presentation will receive a grade of 0 for that assignment unless they can demonstrate that a verifiable illness, accident, or personal emergency prevented them from being on campus on the day of the presentation.



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.



Other Course Information:

Please contact Dr. Graham as soon as possible if you have any questions or concerns about the material covered in class, about how to complete the assignments, or about how your presentation group is working.  Most issues can be easily resolved through direct dialogue. Asking questions or raising concerns can only have a positive impact on your grade in this course.