Pericles assignment

November 16, 2011

Have you lost the final page of your syllabus? Here is the Directing Pericles Assignment (30%, due 15 December)

 The foundation for this assignment is the critical thinking skills addressed during the week of 22 November (mission and vision statement, SWOT analysis, DRIP analysis) and the approaches to directing Shakespeare that we discussed in the week of 29 November (Original Practices at Shakespeare’s Globe, al fresco by New York’s Public Theatre in Central Park, in the round by the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Roundhouse, immersive theatre by Punchdrunk, experimental theatre by The Wooster Group, virtually on Second Life).

 To begin, choose one of the directing approaches that we discussed in class, or, with my permission, imagine another. Shakespeare already exists as a mashup with Dr Seuss, with Star Trek, as claymation, and probably as anything else you can invent, so check You Tube and Google before you commit to any idea – originality counts.

 The point is to be able to describe the elements of a production IN WORDS. For that reason, please do not include images, fabric swatches, etc – I recognize that these can be worth a thousand words, but for this assignment the words are what count.

 Your completed assignment should include the following:

 Part one: mission and vision statement (1000 words)

 What will I do?

Describe the overall look and feel of the production, with some discussion of costume and set design; casting of major roles, with justification; theatre configuration and audience placement. (500 words)

 For whom?

 What kind of audience are you expecting to attract? How does the size of the venue you have chosen relate to the size of the audience you are expecting? (250 words)

 How will I do it better than anyone else could, or ever has?

What insights or abilities do you possess that will make this an outstanding production? (250 words)

 Part two: SWOT analysis (250-500 words)

Strengths of your approach (at least five)

Weaknesses of your approach (at least five)

Opportunities your approach offers to create excellence (at least five)

Threats that might prevent you from reaching excellence (at least five)

 DRIP analysis (1000 words)

Dream- what is the ideal production of Pericles?

Realize – what is the gap between the ideal and what you can actually create, and why?

Imagine – what specific actions must be taken to close the gap?

Plan – what resources are required in order to make the ideal real, and how can you get them?

Editing skills

November 1, 2011

Today in class we discussed the difference between proofreading and substantive editing, both of which are essential steps  in the life cycle of a research essay. Before you run your spell check, think through the implications of your argument. Imagine a hostile reader who disagrees with your thesis statement, who wonders ‘so what’ and ‘who cares’, and frame your essay as an argument intended to convince that person. Assuming that you have written an outline and conducted appropriate research (using only academic sources, with the sole exception of published newspaper reviews in the case of performance history), the editing phase should not be very onerous but could boost your mark considerably. Editing does not replace effective research, analysis, and writing, but it does allow these to shine brightly. The editing checklist, which I provided in the syllabus, identifies the elements that we will be checking when we mark the research essays (which are due on November 8th). I’ve added a few comments to the information in that handout, in response to student questions.

Organization

Is the thesis statement:

1) debatable (not self-evident);

2) focused (not general);

3) an adequate response to one of the assigned essay topics?

Comment: I am more than happy to receive thesis statements by e-mail or to look at them during my office hours. The biggest problem I am seeing here is that students are coming up with very obvious, self-evident thesis statements that do not require research or analysis (eg Michael Frayn condenses history to fit the time span of a normal play). Try to refine / polish / deepen your thesis statement in light of your research and analysis.

 

Does the introduction:

1) situate that thesis statement within whatever context is absolutely necessary to understand it;

2) omit general information irrelevant to the argument;

3) make it clear what you are going to be arguing;

4) explain why this is an important topic?

Comment: Your topic does not need to be of earth-shattering importance for the world at large, but it should be something worth investigating over the space of five pages or I will wonder why you have bothered to do so, won’t I?

 

Does each paragraph:

1) begin with a topic sentence that explicitly states what the paragraph will argue;

2) contribute to the argument in a way that is evident to your reader;

3) use synthesized, sufficient, and logically organized examples to support the topic sentence;

4) flow smoothly into the next with a transition that furthers the argument?

 

Is the conclusion:

1) the logical outcome of the argument developed in the essay;

2) related directly to the thesis statement;

3) not simply a restatement of the introduction in different words;

4) a clear statement of what your evidence implies?

Comment: If you can’t find your way to a conclusion, consider whether you need to think more deeply about your argument. Where has your argument taken you? If you are still at the same place you started you need to do some more work to push that argument somehow. Avoid simply restating the introduction in different words.

 

Overall, is the argument:

1) complete (including whether it is the specified length);

2) concise, without any irrelevant material;

3) logical, avoiding the fallacies of:

hasty generalization (especially “in society today…” and variations thereof)

post hoc ergo propter hoc (literally “after therefore because of”)

circular argument (e.g. Henry is an effective communicator because he speaks well)

false either / or (presenting only two options when there are more than two possibilities)

red herring (using evidence to support a claim that it cannot support)?

 

Information

Are your sources:

1) adequate (cite at least FOUR SCHOLARLY sources for this assignment, each quoted or paraphrased at least once and no more than twice);

2) appropriate (scholarly);

3) applicable (relevant to this essay topic);

4) effectively used to provide supporting evidence for your own argument;

5) cited whenever they are used for quotations and paraphrases?

If you take credit for an idea not your own even once, you will receive a 0 and will be referred to the Faculty of Arts for a plagiarism investigation.

Comment: The play DOES NOT count as a source. You may cite it, and if you do you should include it in your bibliography. If you are using Frayn’s postscript you can use it as a source and must  therefore quote/paraphrase  it at least once and no more than twice.

 

Analysis

Is your argument

1) fully developed, with no missing or extraneous components;

2) based on sufficient, and sufficiently synthesized, examples for inductive reasoning (using several examples to prove the point articulated in a paragraph’s topic sentence);

3) based on a tenable proposition for deductive reasoning (using a generally true proposition to analyze one example — review the logical fallacies to test your proposition);

4) justified if you are comparing and contrasting (why compare these productions or sources)?

Comment: Be certain that you are asking those probing questions like ‘so what’ and ‘who cares,’ and that you are making a tenable and convincing argument.

 

Does each topic sentence

1)  introduce the analytical point that is then developed using examples;

2) further the overall argument?

 

Prose

Are all paragraphs:

1) sufficiently long to indicate a complete analysis;

2) not so long that they indicate a failure to synthesize examples?

 

Are all sentences

1) grammatically correct and complete, with no sentence fragments or run-on sentences;

2) clear and direct;

3) properly punctuated?

 

Are all words:

1) grammatically correct;

2) used correctly;

3) appropriate to an academic paper (tone)?

 

Presentation (check this separately at the final proofreading stage)

Are all parenthetical references and works cited:

1) in MLA format (refer to the new MLA 2009 guidelines at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/747/01/)

2) included in all instances?

 

Are there any editorial errors including:

1) typos and spelling mistakes;

2) wrong font (Times New Roman);

3) wrong margins (1”) or spacing (double);

3) other flaws in the appearance of the document?

 

 

Four research tips

October 11, 2011

For the research projects that you’re working on this week, a key to success is finding a link between the topic that you’re investigating and the play that this research will illuminate. Each category of topic comes with its own technique for finding the key to that connection.

Biographies

I am not looking for a 300-word biography in Wikipedia style, which would show a complete lack of analysis and judgement. What smaller slice of the individual’s life experience would make for an interesting angle on the play, or illuminate something not clear through textual analysis? For example, isn’t it interesting that after the Bohrs escaped the Nazi purge of Copenhagen (discussed briefly in the play), Margrethe remained in Sweden for the duration of the war while Niels went to work on the Allied bomb project at Los Alamos? Perhaps the interview Margrethe gave in 1963, shortly after Niels Bohr’s death, might yield something interesting about her, or about her husband.

Theatrical genres

For the four topics under theatrical genres, the trick is to become familiar with one genre via the sources I listed for you and then think about how Copenhagen draws on elements of this genre. Copenhagen is an odd sort of play, in which the playwright, Michael Frayn, draws on a variety of theatrical styles. Knowing that symbolism is a movement associated with 1880s France is irrelevant, but the fact that the symbolists wanted to find a way of putting the spiritual, the dreamlike, and the unrealistic on stage is pertinent to Frayn’s technique and you could certainly write 300 words identifying the symbolist (or expressionist, or verbatim, or memory) elements in this play.

Performance history

The key here is to find something small and interesting to analyze in your 300-word essay: perhaps a choice about setting, or about characterization, or about cuts or interpolations.

Scientific context

Here, you will find that the index at the back of the book on, say, Los Alamos or the Manhattan project is your friend. Flip to the index to see if the book discusses Bohr and you might just have found your angle.

 

I’m hearing two kinds of questions about this assignment, and I wanted to post some general answers here so that you aren’t floundering over Thanksgiving.

First, the individual topics concerns. If you’ve read the instructions carefully, you’ll have noticed by now that you don’t have a lot of space to present, say, the entire life story of the person you’ve chosen to write about or the complete history of a theatre movement. I want your poster to be accurate, I want it to be impeccable, and most of all I want it to be interesting. Find an angle that illuminates something about the play — something in Bohr’s life that happened after his fateful conversation with Heisenberg, or the contrast between verbatim and the dialogue in Copenhagen, would work nicely. Write 200-300 words about it, and find something interesting and informative to tell us during your presentation — maybe some additional details not included in the poster, or some illustrative examples. Your goal is to show the other people in your lab what kind of research is possible in relation to the topic you’ve chosen, and to show yourself whether this is something you’d like to pursue for the research essay. 

Now, the group worries. Let me be clear. If there are problems in your group that you cannot resolve, the drastic solution is always available to you, all the way up to the day of the lab on October 19 or 20: if someone in your group is creating a problem that you have not been able to resolve, your group can ask for that person to be eliminated from the group. The person would receive a mark of 0/20 and would need to make an appointment with me. This is not a decision that your group can make without consulting me, but it is one that is available to you.

However, let’s see if our conversation in class on Tuesday can help to circumvent such drastic steps. Be nice, work hard, and everything will be just fine. Well, fine for everyone except the Thanksgiving turkey.

 

APUO Awards

October 6, 2011

Full-time undergraduate and graduate students planning to continue their studies at the University of Ottawa in the winter term are invited to apply for the APUO’s awards, worth $1,000 each, granted according to criteria of financial need and academic merit on a competitive basis. The deadline is November 11 and here is a link to the application form. Good luck!

For the Posters and Presentations assignment and the Research Essay, you will need to conduct your own research using the library catalogue and library databases. Here are some recommended starting points. All books, unless otherwise noted, can be collected at the library circulation desk and are on 24-hour reserve. Some links (to databases and articles, for example) will only work if you are logged in to the university’s server (on campus or remotely).

Biographies

Bull, John. “Michael Frayn.” British and Irish Dramatists Since World War II, Third Series: 167-178 (e-book)

Cassidy, David. Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb  (QC 16 .H35 C37 2009)

Cropper, W. Great Physicists (e-book)

Heisenberg, Elisabeth. Inner Exile: Recollections of a Life with Werner Heisenberg (QC 16 .H35 H4413 1984)

James. I. Remarkable Physicists (MRT first-floor reserve section QC 15 .J36 2004)

Krstovic, Jelena. “Michael Frayn.” Drama Criticism, vol. 27:  1-44 (e-book)

Moseley, Merritt. Understanding Michael Frayn (PR 6056 .R3 Z76 2006)

Pais, A. Niels Bohr’s Times: in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (QC 773 .P35 1991)

Plotnisky, A. Reading Bohr (e-book)

Witalec, Janet (ed). “Michael Frayn.” Contemporary Literary Criticism 176: 213-303 (e-book)

Performance history

International Index to the Performing Arts (library database: includes reviews)

National Theatre’s production of Copenhagen and an interview with Frayn

BBC made-for-television movie

Theatrical genres

Useful sources for this assignment are housed in the REFERENCE section on the first floor of the Morisset library:

Cambridge Guide to Theatre  (PN 2035 .C27 1995)

Continuum Companion to Twentieth Century Theatre (PN 2035 .C65 2002)

World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre  (PN 1861 .W67 1994)

See also:

Barnett, David, “Reading and Performing Uncertainty: Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen and the Postdramatic Theatre.” Theatre Research International 30 (July 2005): 139-49.

Scientific context

Note: Michael Frayn’s Copenhagen in Debate is still on order; if it arrives in time to be useful for the research essays I will put it on reserve and let you know that it’s in.

Baggott, J. The First War of Physics (QC 773 .B24 2010)

Bergström, L et al, “The physics of Copenhagen for students and the general public.”  Physics Education 36 (September 2001): 388-93.

Cassidy, David. Beyond Uncertainty: Heisenberg, Quantum Physics, and the Bomb  (QC 16 .H35 C37 2009)

Cropper, W. Great Physicists (e-book)

Newton, Roger. How Physics Confronts Reality (QC 173.98 .N49 2009)

Pais, A. Niels Bohr’s Times: in Physics, Philosophy, and Polity (QC 773 .P35 1991)

Plotnisky, A. Reading Bohr (e-book)

 

General Research Resources

Reserve

The library catalogue will allow you to search for books on reserve for this course (THE1300). The easiest way is to click on the “switch to old catalogue” button (underneath the search window), where the search for reserve materials seems to work better.

Databases

In addition to Scholar’s Portal, which is the library’s default database, you will find different and sometimes more appropriate citations in these two recommended databases:

International Bibliography of Theatre and Dance (provides the full text of articles)

International Index to the Performing Arts (offers both scholarly and non-scholarly hits including production reviews and the full text of some articles)

Online sources

I have no objection to the use of the following online sources:

YouTube for video clips, provided that these are cited appropriately

Theatre company official websites for production information

Electronic books and articles accessed through library databases

Other online sources (e.g. accessed through a Google or Wikipedia) are not acceptable for this assignment or the research essay, except with my explicit permission.

MLA format

The Purdue Online Writing Lab has a complete guide to MLA format, which is what I will be expecting to see used for your poster and research paper. You may choose to purchase the MLA Handbook or the English department’s writing guide (which you may have acquired for ENG 1100), but since the OWL provides up-to-date details on all kinds of MLA citation questions and it is free it is the source I recommend.

 

I’ll be posting regular blog entries to capture what was discussed in class and to provide some direction about what we’ll be doing in the next lab and lecture. If you want to make sure that what you understood correlates with what I think I taught you, this is a good place to start. These notes are not sufficiently detailed to substitute for actually coming to class and taking your own notes, and this is intentional. However, if you were absent you may find that comparing my blog entry to the notes you borrow from someone else is a good means of catching up.

In class on September 13, we started to discuss whether, and if so how, Aristotle’s six elements of drama would be a useful way of understanding Tennessee Williams’s short but brilliant play Suddenly Last Summer. We used a handout from the course syllabus that gives a few details about each of Aristotle’s elements: plot, character, ideas, language, sound, and spectacle.

We spent some time distinguishing between the plot — what actually happens in the play — and the story — what  we learn about through exposition. We discovered that not a whole heck of a lot happens in the play, and that while the story encompasses the events of Sebastian’s death a full year earlier, and even farther back (perhaps all the way back to “the day he was born in this house,” as Catharine says) the plot happens in a very compressed period just before and just after Violet Venable’s five o’clock frozen daiquiri.

This large discrepancy between the fulness of the story and the brevity of the plot tells us that we have before us a play with a late point of attack. A late point of attack, where most of the story is revealed through exposition, is effective for intensifying the effect of suspense. Here, in a kind of murder mystery, a late point of attack makes sense. It will be interesting to compare this effect in Suddenly Last Summer to the other plays we’ll be studying this semester.

We noted that whether we think the complication of the plot is resolved or not (the dénouement) depends on how we interpret the final lines of the play. That discrepancy between what the play says and what we can infer from it is a good example of the difference between textual analysis and interpretation. Williams certainly does not tell us what happens to Catharine, and it is up to us as readers (and, if we are lucky, actors, directors, or spectators) to decide what do about that.

In terms of character, I suggested that the standard categories (eg protagonist, antagonist, foil, confidant, raisonneur) give us one useful tool for thinking about characters because these categories make us think about the functions of characters rather than trying to understand them as if they were human beings. We will return to this idea in the labs since the assigned article by Elinor Fuchs (“EF’s Visit to a Small Planet”) expresses some strong opinions about how we should understand character, but do recall that understanding Dr Cukrowicz as a foil for Sebastian was helpful because it explained why it might be valuable for Williams NOT to have made him a fully-rounded, psychologically rich character.

We touched briefly on the ideas  in the play, and we quickly realized that we all had different answers to the question “What is this play about?” I asked you to think about how the images and language in the play might relate to what you think the play is “about,” since this is one way of providing evidence that the play is about what you think it’s about. We’ll return to that next Tuesday. Some hints: I’ve been thinking about eight clusters of images, symbols, and abstract meanings:

San Sebastian, martyrs, and sacrificial victims

Predators, prey, and parasites

Vampires

Mothers and sons

Snow, ice, and the colour white

Summer, heat, and tropical colours

Ships

A gay subtext

You may have others to add. Meantime, the next step, in this week’s labs, is to see how Fuchs’s approach to the world of the play provides another tool for textual analysis. When we meet again on Tuesday (hopefully with enough desks for everyone!) we’ll be able to see how Aristotle and Fuchs have alerted us to things we’ll need to notice as we conduct our textual analysis. I hope you’ll see that the sight and sound handout I prepared for you gives us one more tool for unpacking the meanings of this play.  You will certainly find that the other assigned reading, in Pavis’s Dictionary of the Theatre, is illuminating and puzzling in equal measure. We’ll see what we can do to increase the former and diminish the latter when we meet again.

About me

September 6, 2011

Eventually, this blog will contain content relating to my Methodology course. In the meantime, here is some information about me:

Dr Kathryn Prince is a theatre history professor at the University of Ottawa, with a particular interest in the contemporary (and the more experimental the better) performance of Shakespeare and other early modern drama.

Her current project, Shakespeare and Theatrical Space, is funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada and will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in the comfortingly distant future.

She is currently putting the finishing touches on a performance history of Much Ado About Nothing (Manchester UP), a biography of Dame Judi Dench (Continuum), and, with Dr Pascale Aebischer, the collection Performing Early Modern Drama Today (Cambridge UP).