The module aims at offering an overview of late-nineteenth- to twentieth-century English literature, as well as at presenting the students with the basics of textual analysis.
A century on the stage: from the well-made play to the Absurd, and beyond.
The module will deal with a selection of 19th and 20th-century dramatic texts in order to offer an overview of the English stage from the late nineteenth century to the second half of the twentieth century. Starting from the tradition of the well-made play and Oscar Wilde’s sophisticated paradoxes, mockingly aimed at late Victorian bourgeois conventions, the module will then explore George Bernard’s Shaw comedy of ideas. The next step of the investigation will lead to William Butler Yeats’ symbolist theatrical experiment and will be carried on by looking at later twentieth-century theatre practices such as Arnold Wesker’s social drama as well as Samuel Beckett’s and Harold Pinter’s dramaturgy that deliberately abandons rational constructs and refuses the logical and consequential function of language.
Please be advised
Students are required to do all the readings indicated in the three sections below: 1. Primary Texts, 2a. References, 3. Handbooks.
Non-attending students are also required to do the readings listed in 2b. Supplementary references for non-attending students.
Further details on required readings and general information on bibliographical material will be provided during classes.
Language: the module will be held in Italian; primary texts will be read in English.
1. Primary texts (any edition)
- O. Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
- G.B. Shaw, Mrs Warren’s Profession
- W.B. Yeats, At the Hawk’s Well
- S. Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape
- A. Wesker, The Kitchen
- H. Pinter, Old Times
- P. Raby, “Wilde’s comedies of Society”, in The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde, ed. by P. Raby, CUP, 1997, pp. 143-160.
- K. Powell, “New Women, new plays, and Shaw in the 1890s”, in The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw, ed. by C. Innes, CUP, pp. 76-100.
- B. O’Donoghue, “Yeats and the drama”, in The Cambridge Companion to W.B. Yeats, CUP, 2006, pp.101-114.
- P. Lawley, “Stages of identity: from Krapp’s Last Tape to Play”, in The Cambridge Companion to Samuel Beckett, ed. by J. Pilling, CUP, 1994, pp. 88-105.
- G. Leeming and S. Trussler, The Plays of Arnold Wesker. An Assessment, Victor Gollancz, 1971, pp. 25-42.
- A. Rayner, “Harold Pinter: Narrative and Presence”, Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), pp. 482-497.
2b. Supplementary references for non-attending students
- R. Jackson, “The Importance of Being Earnest”, in The Cambridge Companion to Oscar Wilde, ed. by P. Raby, CUP, 1997, pp. 161-177.
- D.J. Gordon, “Shavian comedy and the shadow of Wilde” in The Cambridge Companion to George Bernard Shaw, ed. by C. Innes, CUP, pp. 124-143.
- S. Bigliazzi, “Verso un teatro di danza: i Four Plays for Dancers di W.B. Yeats”, in Figure e intersezioni: tra danza e letteratura, a c. di L. Colombo e S. Genetti, Fiorini, 2010, pp. 301-321.
- S. Debevec Henning, “Narrative and Textual Doubles in the Works of Samuel Beckett”, SubStance, Vol. 9, No. 4, Issue 29 (1980), pp. 97-104.
- R. Wicher, Understanding Arnold Wesker, University of South Carolina Press, 1991, pp. 1-31.
- R. Knowles, “Pinter and twentieth-century drama”, in The Cambridge Companion to Harold Pinter, ed. by P. Raby, CUP, 2001, pp. 73-86.
As regards the literary and cultural context spanning from 1830-2000 (from the Victorian Age to the present), students are free to choose between the following handbooks:
- A. Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature, OUP, 2004.
- P. Bertinetti (a c. di), Storia della letteratura inglese, Einaudi, 2000, vol. II.
The exam will consist in an oral discussion in Italian and in English of the module’s topics.