Thursday, January 23, 2014


This is an experiment - both this blog and the course attached to it (CL CV 340 R 002 - Ancient Drama and Performance). Experimentation in the humanities isn't all that common and often is spoken negatively, but there is no reason why it should be. Our colleagues on the other side of campus do experiments all the time and are celebrated for it. Why shouldn't we do the same? Besides, our class this semester is meeting in the Eyring Sciene Center, so it would be wrong not to experiment, right?

 Like all experiments, this one started with a hypothesis: Students and professors can learn more about Greek and Roman drama by examining it as and through performance, as opposed to reading the plays quietly to ourselves. In thought, this is not a revolutionary notion - it's been over fifty years since Erving Goffman first published on the importance of performance in everyday life (1959) and it's been nearly 30 years since Niall Slater drew attention to the importance of performance in understanding Roman comedy (1985). Nevertheless, in practice it still quite rare to find classes outside of the theater department that involve theatrical performance as a significant component of the teaching and evaluation. That is exactly what I intend to do with this course.

In planning this course, I drew heavily on my involvement as a participant in the NEH Summer Institute on Roman Comedy in Performance at UNC (2012) directed by Sharon James and Timothy Moore. (Check out the blog here!) Riffing off of my experience in the institute, I came up with the following plan: with a group of Classics, Humanities and Theater students, we will read a number of plays in translation - Greek and Roman, tragedy and comedy - and then read a survey of scholarship about how these plays were performed anciently and how they have been translated, adapted, and performed in the modern world. Using the tools gained through this survey of the primary and secondary material, the students will choose scenes to perform at the end of the semester. Here is the syllabus.

I don't know how this will turn out - it's an experiment.

I consider this blog our field journal (to steal more terminology from the sciences) in which we will mark our weekly progress toward our ultimate goal of performance. Please feel free to comment with insights, suggestions, criticisms, etc.


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