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

THTRFLM 1T03 Theatre, Cinema & Society (C01)

Academic Year: Winter 2019

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Peter Cockett


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 404

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27662

Office Hours: Monday 2-3pm, TSH 404

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 that is 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:


Ibsen, Henrik. A Doll House.

Brecht, Bertholt. Mother Courage and her Children

Highway, Tomson. Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing

Padmanabhan, Manjula. Harvest

All plays can be found in the Wadsworth Anthology of Drama available at Titles and the Library



Cameron, James. Avatar - rentable.

Griffiths, DW. The Female of the Species– class viewing and VHS copy ON RESERVE at the MILLS LIBRARY in the DW Griffiths collection Short Films vol. 2. – also accessible on YouTube

Griffiths, DW. The Battle of Elderbush Gulch – class viewing and VHS copy ON RESERVE at the MILLS LIBRARY in the DW Griffiths collection Short Films, vol. 1 – also accessible on YouTube

Niro, Shelley. The Shirt – class viewing and ON RESERVE at the MILLS LIBRARY

Honours Performance Series

Students must also attend a performance of the School of the Arts' Honours Performance Series. There are six plays in the Series that begins March 14th and ends March 30th. The shows are created by third and fourth-year Theatre and Film Studies students. You must each see one of the shows from the series. There will be an open question on the final exam about your experience seeing a show. Tickets are free. Details of the shows will be posted on Avenue to Learn when available.

Method of Assessment:


Short Essay on A Doll House:  due in Dropbox Feb. 8                                                      10% (graded prior to Mar 15)

Multiple Choice Test: Feb. 14                                                                                              10% (graded prior to Mar 15)

Group Presentation in Tutorial (sign up in tutorial Jan. 25-31):                                           15%

Individual Essay based on the Presentation (due one week after oral presentation):         25%

Participation:                                                                                                                        15%

Final Exam:                                                                                                                          25%


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. T.A.s 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. (Please see University Policy on Turnitin under “Academic Integrity” in “Important Notes” below.)

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. Productive participation depends on reading of assigned material and consideration of information and opinions presented by the professor, teaching assistants and fellow students in lectures, tutorials and online discussions. You should feel free to try out ideas, express opinions, offer interpretations arising from the readings and lectures. Offering an interpretation that is questioned or challenged by instructors or peers is 100% better than saying nothing. Participation is about engaging in the learning process not demonstrating your knowledge. Nobody will be rewarded for silence. 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.


Tutorials DO NOT START until Friday, January 18. 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. The timing of the tutorials with the lectures is crucial. Consult the schedule carefully.

A 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 arguing 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 Jan. 25-231.

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. To improve your performance in this assignment, you should discuss your thesis and argument with your TA in advance and consider showing drafts to your peers for feedback.

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

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late penalty for written assignments is 5% per day, calculated from the beginning of your tutorial time, or 25% per week unless the student has a justified absence from the University.  After one week, late papers will not be accepted, except in the case of a justified absence.


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 One:

January 7                  Introduction to course

January 10                The Myth of Realism and the Languages of Performance

No tutorials

Week Two:

January 14                The Production Elements 1

January 17                The Production Elements 2

Jan 18-24                    Tutorials: Introductions and Discussion of Course Objectives


Week Three:

January 21                Linear Narrative Conventions and their Consequences and

                                   Theatre and Cinema as Cultural Products and Producers of Culture   

January 24                Cultural Context for A Doll House – Social Realism

                                   Read A Doll House before this class

Jan 25-31                    Tutorials: Making a Design Proposal – Preparing for the Short Essay. Sign up for Presentations and Tutorial reports

Week Four:

January 28                Lecture on A Doll House

January 31                Cultural Context for Mother Courage - Epic Theatre

Read Mother Courage before this class         

Feb 1-Feb 7                Tutorials: Discussion of A Doll House and Short Essay assignment.

Week Five:

February 4                Lecture on Mother Courage as Epic Theatre

February 7                Lecture/Demonstration: Elements of Film Narrative 1

Feb 8-Feb 14              Tutorials: Discussion of Mother Courage and Epic Theatre

Feb. 8                         DEADLINE! A Doll House Essay due. Submit on Avenue to Learn.

Week Six:

February 11              Lecture/Demonstration: Elements of Film Narrative 2

February 14              DEADLINE! Mid Term Test – in class

Feb 15                        No Tutorials

February 18 and 21  Reading Week. NO CLASS.

Week Seven:            

Feb 25-28                   No Tutorials

February 25              Lecture/Demonstration: How to create a presentation for this class – The Female of the Species - Watch The Female of the Species before this class                         

February 28              Cultural Contexts: Colonialism and Post-Colonialism

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

Mar 1 - 7                    Tutorials: Discussion Colonialism and Presentation Prep


Week Eight:             

March 4                     Cultural Contexts: Colonialism and Post-Colonialism

                                   Watch The Battle of Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt before this class                         

March 7                     Cultural Contexts: Early American Cinema and Canadian Video Art 

Week Nine:

Mar 8-14                    Tutorial: Elderbush Gulch and The Shirt Presentations

March 11                   Cultural Contexts: Canada?

                                   Read Dry Lips before this class

March 14                   Lecture on Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing

March 14                   Honours Performance Series Begins

Week Ten:

Mar 15-21                  Tutorial: Dry Lips Presentations

March 18            Cultural Contexts: India, Theatre and Multi-Media

                                   Read Harvest before this class           

March 21                   Lecture on Harvest

Week Eleven:

Mar 22-28                  Tutorial: Harvest Presentations

March 25                   Cultural Contexts: The Blockbuster and the Movie Industry

                                   Watch Avatar before this class

March 28                   Lecture on Avatar     

Week Twelve:

Mar 29-Apr 4             Tutorial: Avatar Presentations

March 30                   Honours Performance Series Ends


April 1                       Performance Creation as Problem Solving, discussion with members

                                   of the production teams of the Honours Performance Series

April 4                       Performance Creation as Problem Solving, discussion with members

                                   of the production teams of the Honours Performance Series

Week Thirteen:

April 8                       Review and Exam Prep