Toggle sidebar

ENGL 4540 and THEA 4950: Performance Studies
Spring 2015

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091
Office Hours: Thursday, 13:30 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Course Description:

A relatively new field in English studies and theatre, performance studies recognizes the expanding meanings and locations of performance. Familiar performances are plays, operas, circuses, and guests on late night television shows, but we now recognize that, in addition to the performing arts, social performances are all around us. This course will survey some major methods in the field including performance history and recovery and the analysis of social issues and change through the self-conscious staging of behaviors, roles, and occupations including those of playwrights, actors, and directors. From the important current topics in the field, we will spend time on celebrity studies, reaccentuation in production, performing gender, and impression management. Several short papers or oral reports, final, and a final presentation. Readings include Joseph Roach’s It, plays such as All for Love and The Dramatist, and accessible essays such as Claire Sponsler’s “Writing the Unwritten: Morris Dance and Theatre History.”

My teaching evaluations are on my website.


January 15. Introduction

20: Thomas Otway, Venice Preserved; +"What is Performance Studies?" 5-6; +"What is Performance?" 59-60.

22: Venice Preserved debate.

27: +Shannon Jackson, "Professing Performances," 32-42; *Marvin Carlson, "Theatre Audiences and Reading of Performance," from Interpreting the Theatrical Past, 82-98.

29: John Gay, The Beggar's Opera

February 3: Continued, with performances

5: George Etherege, The Man of Mode.

10: Man of Mode continued

12: Joseph Roach, It, "Clothes"; +Erving Goffman, "Performances: Belief in the part one is playing," 61-65. Silk.

17: Student performances and Written summary.

19: Joseph Roach, It, "Introduction"; *Laura Engel, "Introduction" to Fashioning Celebrity, 1-25

24: It, "Accessories." Einstein.

26: Research Day.

March 3: Nominations of "It" People.

5: John Dryden, All for Love

10: All for Love, continued. *Laura Engel, "Sarah Siddons's Diva Celebrity"

12: Mid-term Exam: All for Love and It reports.

17: Continued.


March 31: +Marvin Carlson, "What is Performance?" 70-75; *John Fiske, "Cultural Studies and the Culture of Everyday Life" from Cultural Studies, 154-73.

April 2: *Jacky Bratton, "Bartlemy" from New Readings in Theatre History, 142-50; +Claire Sponsler, "Writing the Unwritten: Morris Dance and Theatre History" from Representing the Past, 84-113.; +Jack Santino, "Performative Commemoratives, the Person, and the Public," 125-33.

7: Paper Due.

9: Frederick Reynolds, The Dramatist: Or Stop Him Who Can! (on Eighteenth-Century Collections Online, library database)

14: Henry Fielding, The Author's Farce

16: Continued.

21: +Judith Butler, "Performative Acts and Gender Constitution," 187-99.

23: It, rest of chapters

28: Application of readings to your "It" subject

30: +Barbara Kirshenblattt-Gimblett, "Performance Studies," 43-51; +Peggy Phelan, "Marina Abramovic," 78-86.


+ in The Performance Studies Reader, ed. Henry Bial. 2007 edition.* on Canvas