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ENGL 7170: BRITISH Literature 1660-1800
Spring 2006

Dr. Paula R. Backscheider
9082 Haley Center
(334) 844-9091


Three universities in the United States now offer a Ph.D. in performance theory and history, a branch of applied criticism that has made major contributions to literary history, gender studies, and theater practice. Because of the introduction of actresses and the rise of what we now call the social problem play, eighteenth-century drama has special importance. Concerned with the dynamic among playwright, theatre company, and audience, performance studies takes up such questions as how initial performances and later, especially notable performances shape interpretation into our own time. This is true in spite of the fact that major parts can be played in diametrically opposed ways. For instance, Polly in The Beggar's Opera can be the single, shining, romantic figure in a predatory world or the cleverest, most worldly wise and manipulative character. Because so many of these parts seem to be for women, the parts and plays participate in major debates in the larger culture, about, for example, what the nature, capacity, and rights of women are. Another such play is Aphra Behn's The Rover, and both plays will be studies.

Performance studies offers an alternative or supplementary history of appropriate gender behavior, even as it models alternative identities, relationships, and emerging social opinions. The fops, sluts, flirts, cross-dressed people, posturing pirates--some women, and androgynous or exaggeratedly sexed characters that people plays demonstrate such things as the shift to the culture's need for diplomats rather than warriors. Plays to be read for these issues are John Dryden's All for Love, John Vanbrugh's The Provoked Wife, and the Vanbrugh-Cibber Provoked Husband.

Another major question is how some pieces of high art pass into mass, popular culture and generate numerous, popular imitations. Retrospectively, some of these literary works are recognized as beginning a major shift in literary form and social values. Richard Steele's Conscious Lovers is an example, as it offered a way to move beyond the "hard," cynical comedies of the Restoration and also signaled a shift from reason to "sensibility" as the most admired human characteristic. All of these questions raise the issue of the significance and influence of the theatre in the time when it was the prestige genre, and we will read Samuel Foote's The Dramatist, and Richard Sheridan's The Critic. These plays also raise questions about how much control authors ever have over interpretation.

This seminar will give students the opportunity to practice some of the major methodologies used by performance theory and history specialists in the close study of these and a few other plays.


Jan. 9:

Introduction. What is performance studies and why does it matter.
If you would like to review or familiarize yourself with the historical period, please read the introduction and chapter 1 of Douglas M. Young, The Feminist Voices in Restoration Comedy (on reserve).

Jan. 23:

The play as text. Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv'd
Joseph R. Roach, "Slave Spectacles and Tragic Octoroons: A Cultural Genealogy of Antebellum Performance," Theatre Survey 33 (1992): 167-87.
Marvin Carlson, "Theatre Audiences and the Reading of Performance" from Interpreting the Theatrical Past, 82-98.

Jan. 30:

The play as text and the woman question, 1.
Aphra Behn, The Rover (Broadview pb.)
James Peck, "Albion's `Chaste Lucrece': Chastity, Resistance, and the Glorious Revolution in the Career of Anne Bracegirdle," Theatre Survey 45 (2004): 89-113.
Bruce McConachie, "Historicizing the Relations of Theatrical Production" from Critical Theory and Performance, 168-78.

Feb. 6:

Rudolf Arnheim, "Centers as Hubs" in The Power of the Center, 109-32.
Dagny Boebel, "In the Carnival World of Adam's Garden: Roving and Rape in Behn's Rover" in Broken Boundaries 54-70.
Paula Backscheider, Spectacular Politics, 71-104.
Anita Pacheco, "Rape and the Female Subject in Aphra Behn's The Rover," ELH 65 (1998): 323-45.
Susan Carlson, "Cannibalizing and Carnivalizing: Reviving Aphra Behn's The Rover," Theatre Journal 47 (1995): 517-39.
Nancy Copeland, "Reviving Aphra Behn," RECTR 14 (1999): 1-18.
W.B. Worthen, "Deeper Meanings and Theatrical Technique: The Rhetoric of Performance Criticism," Shakespeare Quarterly 40 (1989): 441-55.

Feb. 13:

Reports on players and parts.
John Gay, The Beggar's Opera
Toni O'Shaughnessy [Bowers], "A Single Capacity in The Beggar's Opera," Eighteenth-Century Studies 21 (1987- 88): 212-27.

Feb. 20:

Who owns a play. The Rover and Venice Preserv'd
Joseph Addison, Cato
Adam Beach, "Carnival Politics, Generous Satire, and Nationalist Spectacle in Behn's The Rover,"Eighteenth-Century Life 28 (2004): 1-19.
Lisa Freeman, "What's Love Got to Do with Addison's Cato?" SEL 39 (1999): 463-82.
Jason Shaffer, "`Great Cato's Descendants': A Genealogy of Colonial Performance," Theatre Survey 44 (2003): 5-28.
Bruce McConachie, "Using the Concept of Cultural Hegemony to Write Theatre History" from Interpreting the Theatrical Past, 37-58.
Review Peck's essay.

Feb. 27:

The woman question, 2, the masculinity question, 1, and domestic crisis.
John Dryden, The World Well Lost
George Farquhar, The Beaux' Strategem
Backscheider, "`Endless Aversion Rooted in the Soul,'" The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation 37 (1996): 99-135.
George Haggerty, "`The Man I Love': The Erotics of Friendship in Restoration Theater" in The Queerest Art, 106- 23.
Laura Rosenthal, "Masculinity in Restoration Drama" in Blackwell Companion to Restoration Drama, 92-108.

Mar. 6:

The shape of Restoration comedy, gender, and masculinity.
George Etherege, The Man of Mode
William Congreve, The Way of the World
Pat Gill, "The Way of the Word: Telling Differences in Congreve's Way of the World” in Broken Boundaries, 164- 81.
Cynthia Lowenthal, "Sticks and Rags, Bodies and Brocade: Essentializing Discourses and the Late Restoration Playhouse" in Broken Boundaries, 219-33.
Michael Mangan, Staging Masculinities: History, Gender, Performance, introduction and chapters 4 and 5.

Mar. 13:

Jeremy Collier, A Short View of the Immorality and Profaneness of the English Stage
Oliver Goldsmith, An Essay on the Theatre.
Book reviews.

Mar. 20:

Reports on a performance history finding.


April 3:

Domestic crises, masculinity question, 2.
Colley Cibber, The Careless Husband
George Lillo, The London Merchant
Richard Sheridan, School for Scandal
Kristina Straub, "Actors and Homophobia" in Cultural Readings of Restoration and Eighteenth-Century English Theater, 258-80.
Straub, Sexual Suspects: Eighteenth-Century Players and Sexual Ideology, 24-68.

April 10:

Aesthetic crisis, 1.
Richard Steele, The Conscious Lovers
John Home, Douglas
Lisa Freeman, "The Cultural Politics of Antitheatricality: The Case of John Home's Douglas," Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, 43 (2002): 210-35.
Betty Schellenberg, "Frances Sheridan Reads John Home: Placing Sidney Bidulph in the Republic of Letters," Eighteenth-Century Fiction 13 (2001): 561-77.

April 17:

Aesthetic crisis, 2.
Henry Fielding, Tom Thumb
Samuel Foote, The Dramatist
Richard Sheridan, The Critic
Robert Jones, "Sheridan and the Theatre of Patriotism: Staging Dissent during the War for America," Eighteenth-Century Life 26 (2002): 24-45.

April 24:

Douglas, sentimentality, and theatrical crisis.

May 1: Student research reports. Papers due 36 hours after presentation.

Continuation of presentations on a day to be decided.