Dark Comedy in Theatre and Film
This course will examine the “troublesome genre” of dark comedy by looking at the ways in which theatre and film use comic and tragic structures and traditions to explore concepts and stories seemingly at odds with those traditions. Although not always organized chronologically in time, we will examine the formal and structural characteristics of tragicomedy by tracing its development, from some of its earliest roots in Roman comedy, to its manifestation in contemporary films and plays. Aside from close readings of plays and analysis of films, we will read selected critical essays and theory to enhance our understanding of how dark comedies subvert categories and expectations. We will look at how dark comedies affect audiences and read sections of plays aloud in class. Issues to be considered include comparing the way the genre translates across theatre and film (adaptation) and examining the unique placement of the genre at the heart of contemporary American culture. Students will have the opportunity to experiment with creating tragicomic effect through performance in their presentations. The class is a seminar, with required participation in discussions. Other assignments include an 8-10 page paper and a presentation. Although the syllabus is still being finalized, we will read plays by authors as diverse as Plautus, Anton Chekhov, and Lynn Nottage, and filmmakers like Charlie Chaplin, Sofia Coppola, and Spike Lee.
This course will be taught remotely in Fall 2020, with some synchronous classes on Zoom, combined with asynchronous sessions and assignments.