radical change to French society
brought about by the Revolution (1789-1804)
also had a significant impact on the practice of drama. Although censorship,
which had been briefly lifted, was soon resinstated, which made it
impossible to treat certain themes, most of the constraining rules
for writing plays disappeared. Tragedy, the genre that served as a
standard and ideal for playwrights for over two hundred years, was
definitively abandoned, and the Romantics, starting in the 1830s,
popularized the previously taboo principle that serious and comic
strains could be combined in the same play. The surge in "popular"
drama catering to the middle and lower classes, also contributed to
changing the very nature of theater, which stood unchallenged as the
primary form of entertainment until the end of the century (cinema
was invented in the late 1890s).
Whereas literary studies tend to envision the nineteenth
century French stage as dominated first by the Romantics (Hugo, Musset,
Vigny) in the 1830s and 1840s, at its opposite, by the realistic Drame
bourgeois of Alexandre Dumas fils, Émile Augier, Henri
Becque and Octave Mirbeau in the second half of the century, the most
numerous and successful plays belonged to the genre of Vaudeville
(a hybrid form with both spoken and sung lines) and Mélodrame
(which focuses on heart-wrenching situations and the stark opposition
of Good and Evil), with authors like Scribe, Labiche, Feydeau, Courteline
and Pixérécourt. Today we can really only understand
plays from this period through performance, by studying the conditions
in which they were staged, by seeing them staged or, better yet, by
performing them ourselves.
In this course, students take on a part in a production
of a French comedic stage play of the nineteenth century. In so doing they not only improve their skills
in spoken French (pronunciation, intonation, rythm), but they also
learn more about French drama, and about comedy as both a literary
and performative genre. With its post-Revolutionary
focus, this course also provides an opportunity to review some important
aspects of French history in the nineteenth century.
In this course, students will
• take on and rehearse a part in a nineteenth-century
French comedy (TBD based on the number of participants), then possibly
perform in a live show;
• practice their close reading skills;
• learn and practice public speaking techniques and strategies
(diction, tempo, breathing, posture);
• expand their knowledge of comic drama;
• read other plays of the period in order to become familiar
with the features of nineteenth-century
French comedy and melodrama (character types, plot structure, etc.);
• reflect on their rehearsal work and on their learning
course requires the active participation of students since most of
class time is devoted to doing exercises and rehearsing a stage play.
The teacher will provide constant suggestions and feedback on acting
techniques as well as on French diction. At the end of the semester,
the class may live performances in which everyone will take on a part
(length of time on stage may vary).
Although the nature of the work in this course is essentially
performative and collaborative, students need to prepare for class
by practicing their lines on their own and memorizing them.
The initial phase of the class involves a close reading
of the play in order to clarify unknown or obscure vocabulary, but
also allusions and references in the text.
Students will also reflect on the work being done through
complementary readings of other nineteenth-century
and engage in a continuing conversation using BlackBoard's Discussion
student is expected to be present for every class and arrive on time
(repeated tardiness will be penalized). If an absence is anticipated,
the instructor must be notified beforehand by e-mail or by phone (ext.
An absence may be "excused" if it was
caused by an unforeseen event or accident that made it impossible
or extremely difficult for a student to attend class, and which can
be documented. If you feel sick enough to miss class, then you should
also seek medical attention and obtain a certificate from the health
care provider who treated you. If you suffer from a chronic mental
or physical condition that occasionally flares up to the point of
incapacitating you, you need to be registered with the University
health services in order to be granted accommodations.
A student who was absent (justifiably or not) remains
responsible for finding out what was done or assigned during the missed
class(es), and for turning in assignments on time. Unjustified absences
will result in a reduction of the portion of the final grade allotted
to "Presence, Preparedness and Participation."
You must come to class prepared by having completed
assignments as indicated by the instructor, in an appropriate manner
(see the "Total Commitment Policy").
Manifest lack of adequate preparation will result in a reduction of
the portion of the final grade allotted to "Presence, Preparedness
Participants need to have completed
(or be completing concurrently) the "Advanced French" sequence
in the Georgetown curriculum (101-102 or 111-112 or their equivalent),
or be able to demonstrate a level of French speaking and listening
proficiency congruent with the course objectives. Contact Dr. Spielmann
if you are not sure that you qualify.
aspects of this class fall under Georgetown University's honor system.
If you are not thoroughly familiar with its provisions, please review
them at http://honorcouncil.georgetown.edu/system/policies.
A point of particular concern is using source material appropriately
and avoding plagiarism : "Plagiarism, in any
of its forms, and whether intentional or unintentional, violates
standards of academic integrity. Plagiarism is the act of passing
off as one’s own the ideas or writings of another (…).
While different academic disciplines have different modes for attributing
credit, all recognize and value the contributions of individuals
to the general corpus of knowledge and expertise. Students
are responsible for educating themselves as to the proper mode of
attributing credit in any course or field. (…) Note
that plagiarism can be said to have occurred without any affirmative
showing that a student’s use of another’s work was intentional.
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