Shelley’s Children: Drama of Social Conscience

In ‘A Defence of Poetry,’ Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote that ‘poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.’ In this course, we will see how this view of authors and their work resonates within both serious and comical plays by five important 20th-century playwrights. Racism; the dangers, responsibilities, and ethical questions raised by advances in technology; Big Business and the environment; fearmongering as a weapon in politics and society; ostracism and otherness are some of the themes we’ll encounter, issues which continue to challenge us in the present day. During class, we will have a chance to read aloud and otherwise interpret scenes from the plays (no thespian experience necessary!) as well as to engage in lively discussion of the texts. Be assured that, despite the content of the plays, the class will not become a forum for political or social debate.
We will read, in order, R.U.R. by Karel Capek (Penguin Classics edition), The Madwoman of Chaillot by Jean Giradoux (Dramatist’s Play Service, Inc. edition), The Crucible by Arthur Miller, Orpheus Descending by Tennessee Williams, Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry. This in-person only class is limited to 20 participants.

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