Spring 2019 English 344A: Tragicomedy
Days / Time: TTh 930-1120 MLR 301 Instructor: W.R.Streitberger
‘The tears of the world are a constant quantity. For each one who begins to weep somewhere else another stops. The same is true of the laugh.’ (Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot)
While comic treatment of potentially tragic experience is as old as Euripides’ ironic tragedies with comic endings, tragicomedy has predominated mainly in two periods--the Renaissance and the modern era. The theoretical conceptions and critical concerns common to both periods are similar: that tragicomedy is a quintessentially ‘modern’ genre, that it is more true to life than either tragedy or comedy, that the relationship between the comic and tragic must not be haphazard but rather the one should modify the other to bring a meaningful mixture of responses from the audience, and that success in this genre is difficult to achieve. This is a production focused investigation of tragicomedy in drama and film. We will read a number of significant plays and key theoretical statements in our investigations of the genre in plays and films from Shakespeare to the present.
Requirements: (1) Together with your assigned group provide a panel discussion (300 points) on the reading and viewing assigned. See syllabus for details. (2) Essay (5-7 pp. 300 points) in which you explore some aspect of tragicomedy in a play or film. Proposal due NLT end of week 6. Essay due end of week 9. (3) Exam (300 points) on the last day of class. (4) You must stream at home an assigned film in preparation for class, attend class to view the productions shown there, and participate in discussions. If you miss three classes your grade will be lowered. If you miss six you will not receive credit for the course.