Sunday, February 08, 2009

Dramatic Despair

I haven't taught the drama course here in a good long time. I generally like teaching drama, but right now, I'm not enjoying the Greek stuff at all. It reads like closet drama to me. Nothing happens, and we spend endless speechifying recounting what happens offstage.

I'm not a lover of closet drama. Yeah, I tried teaching The Tragedy of Miriam, and I was lousy at it.

True confession: I passed my eyes over Samson Agonistes ONCE, and prayed that it wouldn't appear on my orals because I knew I'd fail if it did. Happily, it didn't. It is oddly tempting to wonder where I might be now, had it appeared and had I failed as a result. Somewhere warm, I hope. (This isn't a knock on Milton, either. As a grad student, I sat in on two undergrad classes to "fill in" for stuff I'd never taken classes in, and one of them was a Milton class, and let me tell you, it was chewy, yummy, fascinating stuff. Heck, I'd sit in on it again with the same prof if given the opportunity.)

I need something really smart and good to say about Greek stuff, because at the rate I'm going, a couple Quem Queritis tropes would seem lively and exciting.


  1. Hm.

    I've never taught a class on Greek tragedy, but I've taken a number of them from some pretty smart cookies... I wouldn't presume to give you advice, but if you let slip some play titles and/or authors, I might be able to remember a few interesting nuggets of wisdom.

  2. I don't know which plays you're reading, but you might want to check out this YouTube page, which has a bunch of clips of Greek drama in performance (and some other goodies, such as clips from many of the BBC Shakespeares).

  3. We're working on the sphinx killer now, as king. We finished the "no sex during war" one.

  4. If you're doing Oedipus, then you could always bring in some of Freud's writing on the subject. Also, you could talk about the influence this play had on later works, and/or bring in other mythology that has similar themes/issues. Or you could talk about the preoccupations of the Greeks and how these cultural anxieties manifested in their writing.

    Or you could just power through to get to something of more interest to you. :)

  5. Hi! Long time lurker, first time poster here...
    I had to teach Bury My Brother or Else I'll Complain A Lot! and No Nookie Until You End the War... to high schoolers, no less. I agree that those Greeks really suffered from their technical limitations. I did find, though, that seeking out actor-centered translation as opposed to literature-centered translations helped keep it a bit more lively. My favorite translations came from Nicholas Rudall. He's also really approachable and even came and talked to my students about adapting for the stage and Greek drama in general.
    Good luck-- er, uh, break a leg!

  6. I know this comment's a bit late for your teaching, but I always like to focus on the ritual bit, the part that these played in the life of the city, how the architecture of the amphitheatre forced Athenian citizens to view the action literally through the chorus, and how the expurgation represented in katharsis modeled a literal expurgation of the negative element from the stage space, so that the tragic hero literally becomes a scape goat.

    I also like to talk about why so much action takes place offstage, and how technical requirements (cothurni, big honkin' masks, audience members sitting really far away) made actual action quite difficult to represent.

    I like the Greeks for all those reasons, and because they set up so many different ways to talk about drama and theatre as artifacts of very specific cultures...