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Global Theatre’s Many Publics: World Drama and Performance in the Undergraduate Curriculum

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Organizer: Glenn Odom

Co-Organizer: Julia Walker

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Efforts to internationalize the theatre and performance studies curriculum in the Western academy promise to richly enhance our understanding of a diverse array of cultures.  New scholarship on African, Asian, Pacific-island, and South American performance cultures has begun to enlarge the Anglo-American and European canon of dramatic literature that remains firmly rooted in most undergraduate syllabi.  Yet more needs to be done, especially since a merely additive approach tends to reinforce the Western assumptions underlying canonicity.

In this session, we propose a two-part conversation focused on expanding and revising the model of the canon that typically structures undergraduate survey courses and on reassessing the theories and methods of the pedagogy used to teach world drama.  Participants are invited to submit a proposal for a paper that advocates for the inclusion of a play or performance text from an under-represented culture that offers an in-depth analysis of its cultural significance in the terms of its authorizing culture.  (Please do not propose an analysis that uses a Western theoretical framework to explicate a non-Western play.  We prefer analyses that are deeply informed by the writer’s knowledge of the practices and assumptions of the host culture.)   The paper should make a lively argument for why the performance text is important both to the history of world theatre (and to a revised world drama syllabus) and to a humanistic understanding of the host culture.  Such arguments will animate the first half of our discussion at the conference as we build a template for a revised—but always necessarily provisional—canon or alternative model of world drama appropriate to our globalized era.

After circulating papers among the group in advance of the conference, participants will also be asked to submit a 1-2-page lesson plan or pedagogical reflection essay that discusses strategies for introducing their materials with sensitivity and effectiveness to English-language students in Western classrooms.  Questions about what makes a performance text “representative” of its culture, whether and how to address “universal” meanings in relation to culturally-specific practices, and how the syllabus narrates an account of “the world” will inform our critical conversation in the second half of our meeting at the conference.

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