American Studies 198.10
Instructor: Robin Bernstein
How do we invent our American identities? How do we invent others' identities as American or non-American? How does power affect our ability to invent ourselves and others? How are gender and race constructed and maintained through performance--both on-stage and off? Can racism and sexism be thought of as performances? Can performance create--or deconstruct--racism? sexism?
What meanings are produced when we invite others to look at our bodies? How do these meanings change when our bodies are live, on stage, as opposed to on film or in printed literature? How do we change when we look at others' live bodies?
To begin to answer these questions, we will examine the ways in which identities and power are created through live, deliberate performance. We will analyze texts, voice our opinions, and listen respectfully to each other. We will wrestle with questions that have no simple answers; we will produce difficult and startling questions of our own--questions that invite us to think in new ways about gender, race, and the construction of American identities.
REQUIREMENTS and GRADING
The first paper constitutes 10% of your final grade. Class participation, the take-home midterm, and the final paper constitute 30% each.
UNIT I: PERFORMANCE AND THE PRODUCTION OF IDENTITY
Week #1: Introduction to Performance Theory
Tuesday, Jan. 12
Thursday, Jan. 14
Week #2: Performing America
Tuesday, Jan. 19
Thursday, Jan. 21
Week #3: Performing Race and Gender
Tuesday, Jan. 26
Thursday, Jan. 28
Week #4: Theatre as a Site of Performance
Tuesday, Feb. 2
Thursday, Feb. 4
UNIT II: LOVE AND THEFT: PERFORMING THE RACED "OTHER"
Week #5: Minstrelsy: Performing the African-American "Other"
Tuesday, Feb. 9
Thursday, Feb. 11
Week #6: Abolitionism? Performing the African-American "Other" in Uncle Tom's Cabin
Tuesday, Feb. 16
Thursday, Feb. 18
Week #7: Performing the Native American "Other"
Tuesday, Feb. 23
Thursday, Feb. 28
Week #8: Performing Contact, Performing Conflict: Whites, Native Americans, and African-Americans Together
Tuesday, Mar. 2
Take-home, open-book midterm exam distributed
Thursday, Mar. 4
UNIT III: THE "OTHER" PERFORMS: THE SPECTACLE OF DEVIANT BODIES
Week #9: Raced Bodies
Tuesday, Mar. 9
Thursday, Mar. 11
Mar. 15-19: SPRING BREAK!
Week #10: Gendered Bodies
Tuesday, Mar. 23
Thursday, Mar. 25
Week #11: Freaked Bodies
[DATE] Video viewing: Tod Browning's "Freaks"
Tuesday, Mar. 30
Thursday, Apr. 1
Week #12: Realism: Performing "Normalcy"
Tuesday, Apr. 6
Thursday, Apr. 8
UNIT IV: QUEERING THE SPECTACLE: PERFORMING FLUIDITY
Week #13: Drag
Tuesday, Apr. 13
Thursday, Apr. 15
Week #14: Do Bodies Matter? Casting Across Gender, Across Race
Tuesday, Apr. 20
Thursday, Apr. 22
Week #15: Performing the Construction of Race and Gender
Tuesday, Apr. 27
THURSDAY, MAY 6: FINAL PAPER DUE
CLASS PARTICIPATION (30% of total grade)
The reading load for this course is decidedly moderate. In no week does the reading exceed 200 pages; some weeks, you will read fewer than 100 pages. You are required to arrive in class having completed and thought about all the reading. In other words, merely gulping down the reading is inadequate; you should come to class having chewed and digested the material thoroughly. You are expected to prepare your own thoughts, opinions, and questions before every class.
Your productive, informed participation constitutes 30% of your total grade for this course. That means that a student who receives an A on every assignment, but who never speaks in class, will receive a grade of C- for the course. You need not be equally vocal every week, but consistent silence will have an adverse effect on your grade. Similarly, practices that are disrespectful of your colleagues (for example, interrupting, hogging the floor, or launching personal attacks) will result in a lowered grade. Lateness and absence will also lower your grade.
I prefer not to give pop quizzes; however, if I find that students are consistently unprepared to engage with the material, I will surprise you with quizzes that will count toward your participation grade.
FIRST PAPER (10% of total grade)
Choose one event you know well (preferably one you can witness and take notes on) and analyze the ways in which the event produces ideologies of race, gender, or nation through performance (do NOT attempt to analyze all three types of ideologies in this 3-5 page paper!). The performance need not be conscious; you may choose a performance from everyday life.
MIDTERM EXAM (30% of total grade)
The midterm is a take-home, open-book, untimed essay exam. The questions are designed to test your ability to think and write about large issues we have addressed throughout the course.
FINAL PAPER (30% of total grade)
Each student will write an 8-10 page paper on a subject of his or her choice.
Papers may be historically-oriented and research-based, theoretically-oriented and thought-based, or any combination thereof. Whatever subject you choose, your paper should contain a clear argument of relevance to the issues and texts we have discussed in class. I am happy to accept and comment on drafts submitted at least one week before the due date of [DATE]. Late papers will be penalized one third of a letter grade for each day overdue.
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