E 314J – Lit & Theatre Syllabus

What does it mean to read a play? What happens in the spaces between a written text, a live performance, and a recorded film?  In today’s techno-saturated, multi-media society, what role does the theatre (still) play? What connections can we draw between Antonin Artaud and Quentin Tarantino; between Augusto Boal and Borat? How have the stories of drama been re-mixed and revisited in contemporary culture?

This course will introduce students to a broad survey of dramatic literature from ancient Greece to contemporary stages, exploring texts in terms of both literary analysis and performance theory.  The class will be divided into three units: critical interpretation, social engagement, and adaptation.  Each unit will pull from a variety of time periods, inviting discussion about historical context and cultural interpretations, as well as calling attention to structural shifts in the dramatic form.  Questions of race, class, gender, and form will be integral across all three units, but in the first unit we’ll focus closely on how these questions play out in critical interpretations of Shakespeare and Henrik Ibsen. The second unit will explore the attitudes of various dramatists regarding the role of drama/art in society.  The third unit will focus on adaptations of older texts, thinking about questions of authorial and directorial interpretation.

Each unit is designed to build on and incorporate material from the previous units, as are each of the major writing assignments. No expertise in literary criticism or theater will be presumed. The broad goals of this course will be to introduce students to the basic tools of literary analysis and to develop students’ own critical writing.

Students will be expected to write and revise two substantial papers in addition to periodic reading responses.  Students will also be expected to prepare a short report (to be shared with the class) on an original text not included on the syllabus.  Additionally, students will be called upon to prepare in-class presentations of their research and to demonstrate digital literacy skills learned in the course.

Some of the skills you will learn in this class include:

  • how to read carefully and critically (i.e. close read)
  • how to approach texts from formal, historical, and cultural standpoints
  • how to navigate a variety of digital media platforms
  • how to conduct library and web-based research and document your sources
  • how to edit and proofread your own and others’ prose
  • how to produce a clean, efficient academic writing style
  • how to construct and organize effective arguments


Required texts: The Tempest, William Shakespeare, Norton Critical Edition;
“They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Second Edition), Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein, Norton.

Course Packet (available in the second week of classes): including Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House; G.B. Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession; Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade; Rebecca Gilman’s Dollhouse; as well as brief excerpts from Antonin Artaud’s The Theater and It’s Double; Bertoldt Brecht’s Brecht On Theatre; and Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed.

Grade Breakdown:

Weekly discussion/blog posts, reading quizzes, participation and short homework assignments 15%
Short response papers on readings, 5 times throughout course 15%
3-4 page report on a play or film adaptation (to be shared with the class) 15%
4-6 page short paper, peer reviewed and submitted twice 25%
6-8 page longer research paper 30%

Grading Policy:

Given that this course is designed to fulfill a writing flag requirement, you will necessarily be expected to produce a substantial amount of writing.  While some of you may have already taken courses with substantial writing components, for many of you this will be your first taste of college-level writing.  Regardless of your level of experience, one of my primary pedagogical goals for the course is to teach you writing as a process.  Pieces of writing are like sculptures, the blank page is a lump of clay that takes shape slowly, with time and effort.  With that in mind, revision is a built-in component of some assignments, but I also maintain an open-ended revision policy.

Each substantial writing assignment may be revised and re-submitted until you are satisfied with your grade.  Keep in mind, however, that “revision” does not mean merely correcting mistakes.  To have effectively revised a paper is to have re-envisioned it: to reconsider structure (both global and local); to weed out extraneous claims and clauses; to improve the flow of ideas and sentences; to provide additional support for weaker arguments.  I will only provide feedback (or a new grade) on resubmitted assignments that demonstrate substantial revision.

While I hope that personal fulfillment and improvement in your writing skills will be your main objective in this class, I understand that you’re also interested in passing the class.  I will assign letter grades to your papers based on whether you exceed requirements (A), whether you meet them well (B), whether your meet them competently (C), or whether you fail to meet them at all (D or F). I strongly encourage you to make use of my office hours to discuss the course and your work, particularly if you find yourself struggling early on.  I WILL be grading on the plus/minus grading scale.  All numeric grades for this class will fit within the following scale:

A:       94.0-100           C:        74.0-76.9

A-:        90.0-93.9        C-:       70.0-73.9

B+       87.0-89.9         D+:      67.0-69.9

B:        84.0-86.9         D:        64.0-66.9

B-        80.0-83.9         D-:       60.0-63.9

C+:      77.0-79.9         F:         0-59.9

Attendance is required, as is participation in discussion and arriving to class prepared (i.e. with the reading done and your texts in hand).  Arriving to class without having read or without your book/text may result in your being counted absent – as you will be unable to adequately participate in the day’s discussion/activities.  Students are allowed 3 absences without incurring a grade penalty.  The fourth and each subsequent absence will incur a 2% penalty on the final overall grade.  Exceeding 6 absences will result in failure of the course.

Assignment Submission:

Unless otherwise specified, your written work will be completed/submitted via the course wiki, posted to your individual student folder. To gain access to the wiki, you must first create an account with PBworks and then request access to the Literature and Theater wiki page. Learning to navigate the wiki is just one of many digital literacy skills you will gain from this course.

Late Work:

Assignments should be uploaded to the wiki by the start of class on the due date.   Any work submitted beyond this deadline will be penalized by one full letter grade, and this penalty will stick with the assignment regardless of revisions.   In addition to affecting your overall performance, habitually turning in work late will put you out of sync with the rest of the class.  Also, keep in mind that late submission will result in assignments being returned late, which may set you back even further if the assignment needs revision.

Plagiarism and Collusion:

The writing you do in this course must be your own. Passing off the work of others as your own can be either plagiarism or collusion. Both are scholastic offenses that I will not tolerate. Be certain you understand what these terms mean.  The Department of Rhetoric and Writing’s Statement on Scholastic Responsibility offers detailed explanations of acceptable and unacceptable forms of quotation and paraphrasing.  Plagiarism is a serious offense, and students caught plagiarizing risk failing the entire course, not simply a given assignment.


Students will create individual blogs on Tumblr and follow the course blog as well as your classmates’ blogs.  Discussion topics will be posted for each reading, and you will be expected to respond to at least one of the prompts each week.  The blogs are intended to generate discussion both in class and out, so I welcome you to respond to your classmates’ posts and to use the blog as a conversational tool.

Reading Quizzes:

It’s important to stay on top of all the assigned reading for the course.  Writing a post about Tuesday’s discussion topic does not exempt you from reading the materials for Thursday.  To ensure everyone is keeping up with the reading and prepared to participate in classroom discussion, I will periodically give in-class reading quizzes.


E-mail is an official means of communication at UT-Austin, and I will frequently use this medium to communicate class information. You are therefore required to obtain a UT email account and to check it daily. All students may claim an email address at no cost by visiting the UTMail website.  Now that the university has joined forces with google mail, the e-mail service is easily organized and you can keep your address after graduation.  I encourage you to select an e-mail address that is professional and recognizable.  While “sexylonghorn69” might have seemed like a good idea at the time, it might not be ideal for job applications (or e-mailing your professors). Please feel free to e-mail me with questions and concerns, but keep in mind that my response might not be immediate, particularly if your message is sent late at night.  Also, if your question is a lengthy one (about writing, etc.), I may ask you to visit my office hours instead of responding via e-mail.

Computer Use and Availability:

Computers are available to you in the Student Microcomputer Facility (SMF) on the second floor of FAC.  If you have not already done so, you should get your Individually Funded (IF) account number for the SMF immediately by going to ITS Accounts.  You are also invited to use the DWRL open lab in PAR 102 (M-TH 9:00am-5:00 pm; F 10:00-1:00).

Students with Disabilities:

The University of Texas at Austin provides upon request appropriate academic accommodations for qualified students with disabilities. For more information, contact Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD), at (512) 471-6259 [voice] or (866) 329-3986

Religious Holy Days: 

By UT Austin policy, you must notify me of a pending absence at least fourteen days prior to the date of observance of a religious holy day. If you must miss a class, an examination, a work assignment, or a project in order to observe a religious holy day, I will give you an opportunity to complete the missed work within a reasonable time after the absence.

Undergraduate Writing Center:

I strongly encourage you to use the Undergraduate Writing Center, FAC 211, 471-6222. The Writing Center offers free, individualized, expert help with writing for any UT undergraduate, by appointment or on a drop-in basis. Any undergraduate enrolled in a course at UT can visit the UWC for assistance with any writing project. Consultants work with students from every department on campus, for both academic and non-academic writing.  Their services are not just for writing with “problems.” Getting feedback from an informed audience is a normal part of a successful writing project. Consultants help students develop strategies to improve their writing. The assistance they provide is intended to foster independence. Each student determines how to use the consultant’s advice. The consultants are trained to help you work on your writing in ways that preserve the integrity of your work.


While I will rarely (if ever) disrupt your schedule by moving the due dates of major assignments, all readings and short homework assignments are subject to change. The class will evolve based on your interests and participation. As a result, occasional juggling of readings may occur from time to time, so check the schedule on the class website for up-to-date reading assignments.