Course: ENG 207
Description of Course Goals and Curriculum
This course is a survey of a wide variety of plays throughout history, from ancient Greeks to contemporary classics. Through studying these key plays, one gains comprehensive knowledge of the history of playwriting as a constantly evolving artform throughout the ages.
Learning From Classroom Instruction
Lectures: Meets twice a week, about an hour long. Lectures focus less on the content of the plays themselves, but more about the production and historical context of the plays. There is an emphasis on literary devices that can only be achieved in a dramatic form (e.g. having characters change actors halfway through the play). These details can be hard to glean from just reading the text, so this is a nice touch. Cadden is an enthusiastic lecturer, who has amazing knowledge of the trends and historical background in theatre.
Precepts: Precept with Cadden felt similar to the lectures. Students would often ask questions about the theatrical devices used, and Cadden would have interesting insight into how that was performed (and sometimes these ideas Cadden would present to lecture the next day). It felt less like a discussion precept and a little close to a Q&A session at times. This may be different from the other precept, which was led by a grad student, which was likely more discussion based.
Learning For and From Assignments
Readings: One play is assigned per week, and for each play, you would write a Blackboard forum post about it. The length of the reading could vary per week, depending on the length of the play. Most were of a reasonable length though. Some plays were more difficult to get on the first read-through, so it is generally encouraged to read them through a second time, especially before the final exam. Reading plays feels easier than reading books (because of their more conversational nature), but make sure to pay attention to the stage directions, where a lot of the theatrical devices come into play.
Plays: One cool part of the class was that you got to see three theatre performances on campus (e.g. McCarter, Theatre InTime), and the tickets were subsidized. You had to submit a short paper after watching, but this assignment wasn’t too tough. It is a great way to think about these theatrical devices in action, and also a nice study break.
Papers: Papers were a chance to delve deeper into the literary devices in the plays, which could be challenging considering that most of the lectures and precepts focused mostly on the theatrical devices. Even then, the theatrical devices were often linked to the literary devices in certain ways. If this is your first English class, it might be good to visit the Writing Center for help organizing your arguments. Scheduling time or going to office hours with Cadden is definitely very helpful though, as he can provide specific insight into the plays that you write about. Two medium length papers (about 5-7) pages were due throughout the semester.
Final Exam: There were some matching sections at the beginning to make sure that people actually remember the plays, and there are some essay sections near the end. If you re-read the plays a second time (as Cadden will suggest), it should generally be easy enough to do the matching section.
Besides the Writing Center, there’s not too many external resources that you will really be helpful. Perhaps for some of the more well-known plays (e.g. “A Streetcar Named Desire”) you might be able to find some plot summaries online, but you should focus on using the primary source, because that will have the minute details that you could write essays about.
What Students Should Know About This Course For Purposes Of Course Selection
If you’re really into theatre as an art form, this class does a great job of going over some key ideas in theatre and some really great plays. The free tickets to theatre performances was definitely a plus (and sometimes you can even get extra tickets to see performances with a friend). The workload isn’t too heavy either, although refreshing on the plays before the final exam can take a small time investment.
If you’re interested in majoring in English and want to get a sense for the department, this might not be the best class for you. There are other classes which are more traditional, and this often felt more like a Theatre class than an English class. Nonetheless, the plays themselves are enjoyable to read (due to the more bombastic, surprising nature of theatre) and have great literary merit regardless.