Slavic Drama in Context

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Slavic 476 (crosslisted with Department of Theatre and Drama)

Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures
Spring 1992
Instructor: Dr. Halina Filipowicz

Course Description:

A study of Slavic drama in a comparative and theoretical framework. Readings in English.


Andrew Donskov and Richard Sokoloski (eds.), Slavic Drama: The Question of Innovation (on reserve)
Manfred Pfister, The Theory and Analysis of Drama
Bernard F. Dukore, Dramatic Theory and Criticism (on reserve)
Halina Filipowicz, A Laboratory of Impure Forms: The Plays of Tadeusz Rozewicz (on reserve)
Laurence Senelick (ed.), Russian Dramatic Theory from Pushkin to the Symbolists: An Anthology (on reserve)
Linda Hutcheon, A Theory of Parody
Daniel Gerould (ed.), Twentieth-Century Polish Avant-Garde Drama: Plays, Scenarios, Critical Documents (on reserve)
Witold Gombrowicz, The Marriage
Stanislaw Wyspianski, The Wedding
Anton Chekhov, The Major Plays
Nikolai Gogol, The Theater of Nikolai Gogol
Vaclav Havel, The Memorandum; Temptation; Largo desolato
Pavel Kohout, The Poor Murderer
Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, The Madman and the Nun and The Crazy Locomotive

Course Outline:

The course discusses selected Russian, Polish and Czech plays of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as critical and theoretical studies which represent different approaches to theatre and drama. The constant point of reference is Adam Mickiewicz's "Lesson XVI" on Slavic drama, a lecture he delivered at the College de France in Paris in l843. The major questions to be considered are:
  1. What (if any) are the affinities among Slavic plays?
  2. How are the plays affected by political and social realities? How did Czech and Polish playwrights respond to a prolonged period of foreign occupation, of geographical and political non-existence, of being a nation without a state?
  3. How do the dramatic texts inscribe a theatrical performance? (Here, especially helpful are theoretical studies by the Prague School and by Polish scholars such as Dobrochna Ratajczak.)
  4. What is the plays' relationship to the past? (Here the course will draw on a concept of parody understood not as mockery of the model text, but as a creative dialogue between past and present - particularly on Michal Glowinski's concept of parodia konstruktywna, which preceded Linda Hutcheon's work on parody by a decade.)

Course Requirements:

  1. attendance and class participation (i.e., completing reading assignments on time and defending your position papers).
  2. a detailed journal of your responses to readings and class discussions. The journal should also include a final statement - a summary of your responses to the questions and issues raised in the class.
  3. six position papers. Each paper will be approximately two pages long (typed and double-spaced) and will use one or more literary works to "argue a case" or to discuss an idea. Late papers will be accepted only in the case of illness.
  4. a research paper on any relevant topic discussed in advance with the instructor. A paper should not exceed 20 pages in length.

    An acceptable research paper develops a logical and systematic approach to a problem or problems in a particular text or a group of texts, with an introduction clearly stating the problem(s) to be investigated, an investigation and an argument, and a conclusion. The paper shows an understanding of the importance of previous scholarship on this or related issues, but it should emphasize the student's own ideas. Students who are proficient in one or more Slavic languages should demonstrate that they understand the text(s) in the original and are sensitive to nuances of style, genre, or period.

Reading Assignments:

  1. Contexts: Alfred Jarry, King Ubu
    Luigi Pirandello, Six Characters in Search of an Author
    Samuel Beckett, Waiting for Godot, Endgame
    Eugene Ionesco, The Lesson
  2. Critical and theoretical approaches:
    Adam Mickiewicz, "Lesson XVI"
    Konstanty Puzyna, "Grotowski and Polish Romantic Tradition"
    Jan Blonski, "Signs, Theatre, Holiness"
    Jerzy Grotowski, "The Theatre's New Testament" (in Dukore)
    Jerzy Grotowski, "Tu es le fils de quelqu'un" [You are Someone's Son], The Drama Review, 31 (Fall 1987), 30-41.
    Tymon Terlecki, "Polish Historical Antecedents of Surrealism in Drama"
    Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), "On a New Type of Play" (in Dukore)
    Michael Glowinski, "Parodia konstruktywna (O Pornografii Gombrowicza)," in Gry powiesciowe: Szkice z teorii i historii form narracyjnych, 279-303. Warsaw: Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe, 1973. (in Polish)
    Daniel Gerould, "Laocoon at the Frontier, or The Limit of Limits," Modern Drama, 29 (March 1986), 23-40.
    Iurii Lotman, "Semiotika stseny" (in Russian)
    Jiri Veltrusky's and Jan Mukarovsky's articles in Ladislav Matejka (ed.), Sound, Sign, and Meaning: Semiotics of Art
    Keir Elam, "Language in the Theater," Sub-stance, nos. 18/19 (1977), 139-61.
    Dobrochna Ratajczak, "Sluga dwoch panow: dwoisty zywot dramatu," Teksty Drugie, nos. 5/6 (1990), 80-92. (in Polish)
  3. Plays to be discussed in class:
    Nikolai Gogol, The Inspector General
    Anton Checkhov, The Seagull, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard
    Aleksandr Blok, The Puppet Show
    Adam Mickiewicz, The Forefathers' Eve, Parts II and III
    Stanislaw Wyspianski, The Wedding
    Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz (Witkacy), The Madman and the Nun and/or The Crazy Locomotive
    Witold Gombrowicz, The Marriage
    Tadeusz Rozewicz, The Card Index, White Marriage
    Slawomir Mrozek, Alpha (or Zbigniew Herbert, The Philosophers' Den)
    Vaclav Havel, The Memorandum, Temptation
    Pavel Kohout, The Poor Murderer

Halina Filipowicz is an Associate Professor of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She is a recent recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, and an American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship for Independent Research

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