Fall 2019 HC 221H: Drama in Ancient Greece and Medieval Japan

Fall 2019-2020

Professor: Corinne Bayerl

4.00 credits

  • CRN 12744: Tuesday & Thursday, 8:30 - 9:50 @ CHA 202
  • CRN 12758: Tuesday & Thursday, 1000 - 1120 @ CHA 201
  • CRN 12754: Tuesday & Thursday, 1200 - 1320 @ CHA 201

This seminar will explore the relationship between drama in comic and tragic modes in two different cultures: 5th- and 4th-century B.C. Athens and 14th-century Japan. Our main goal is to understand why the separation of drama into a serious and a lighthearted genre occurred in the first place, why playwrights in both cultures settled on one or the other, and why they did not mix both genres to create a hybrid form, such as tragicomedy, which is of later historical origin.

In pursuit of answers to these questions we will first discuss how, in the Western world, tragedy and comedy both evolved from cultural rituals, which specific functions they had in the lives of Athenian citizens, and how they related to the ethical values, cultural practices, and political ideas of their time. Instead of seeing tragedy and comedy as two separate entities, we will ask how they complement, and at times even comment on each other, when comedic playwrights such as Aristophanes take up and mock the tragic tradition to make their audience laugh.

In the second half of the class, we will examine two forms of Japanese classical theatre that evolved in close connection: the solemn Noh plays and the funny Kyōgen, shown during the intermissions of Noh plays. We will try to make sense of the ‘strangeness’ of these plays and discuss the various ways in which they challenge the expectations of Western audiences, for example with regard to plot structure, acting style, and interaction of actors with the audience.

The main goal of this class is to practice and improve your reading and writing skills. You will have ample opportunity to share and discuss your writing, whether it be serious or funny.

Low cost of textbooks (under 50 Dollars)