Reading the Theater

T/Th - 2:30-3:50, Olin 210

Course wiki:

Instructor: Dr. Cate Blouke          



Office: Olin 104                               

Office phone: 864-597-5047

Office hours: Wednesdays 10:00-11:00, Fridays 1:00-2:00, & by appointment                  

Course Description

This course is designed as a broad survey of dramatic literature from ancient Greece to contemporary stages, exploring texts in terms of both literary analysis and performance theory. It’s also intended as an introduction to college writing – in terms of style, form, and the conventions of academic prose.

The class will be divided into three units: critical interpretation, social engagement, and adaptation. Each unit will pull from a variety of time periods, inviting discussion about historical context and cultural interpretations, as well as calling attention to structural shifts in the dramatic form. Questions of race, class, gender, and form will be integral across all three units, but in the first unit we’ll focus closely on how these questions play out in critical interpretations of plays by Shakespeare and Henrik Ibsen. The second unit will explore the attitudes of various dramatists regarding the role of drama/art in society. The third unit will focus on adaptations of older texts, thinking about questions of authorial and directorial interpretation.

Each unit is designed to build on and incorporate material from the previous units, as are each of the major writing assignments. No expertise in literary criticism or theater will be presumed. The broad goals of this course will be to introduce you to the basic tools of literary analysis and to develop your own critical writing.

Learning Objectives

If we’ve all done our jobs (y’all as engaged students and me as an effective professor) by the end of this semester, you should be able to:

  • Read carefully and critically (i.e. close read)
  • Participate in and contribute meaningfully to classroom discussion
  • Analyze texts from formal, historical, and cultural standpoints
  • Conduct library and web-based research and document your sources
  • Edit and proofread your own and others’ prose
  • Produce a clean, efficient academic writing style
  • Construct and organize effective arguments

Required Texts

 “They Say / I Say”: The Moves That Matter in Academic Writing (Third Edition) by Gerald Graff & Cathy Birkenstein, Norton.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare, Norton Critical Edition

Ibsen: Four Major Plays by Henrik Ibsen, translated by James McFarlane and Jens Arup, Oxford World’s Classics.

The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat […] The Marquis de Sade by Peter Weiss, Waveland Press.

Dollhouse: A Play by Rebecca Gilman, Northwestern UP.

All other readings (or watchings, as will be the case with various videos we’re likely to explore) will be made available to you in advance of the due date – either electronically in Moodle or hard copies handed out in class.

Grading and Assessment

This is a writing class. So you will necessarily be expected to produce a substantial amount of writing. Regardless of your level of experience, one of my primary pedagogical goals for the course is to teach you writing as a process. Pieces of writing are like sculptures, the blank page is a lump of clay that takes shape slowly, with time and effort.  With that in mind, revision is a built-in component of some assignments, but I also maintain an open revision policy.

Each substantial writing assignment (the three short papers and the two long papers) may be revised and re-submitted until you are satisfied with your grade. Keep in mind, however, that “revision” does not mean merely correcting mistakes. To have effectively revised a paper is to have re-envisioned it: to reconsider structure (both global and local); to weed out extraneous claims and clauses; to improve the flow of ideas and sentences; to provide additional support for weaker arguments. I will only provide feedback (or a new grade) on resubmitted assignments that demonstrate substantial revision.

Grade Breakdown

Participation (20%) - I'll evaluate participation according to your visible engagement with and contributions to class discussion. Part of the required participation will also be rotating discussion “roles,” in which you will add content to the class wiki to facilitate class discussion.

3 Short Response Papers (15%) – 2-3 pages double spaced, in which you respond to specific prompts related to the readings. These are primarily a focused exercise in close reading.

Long Paper 1 (25%) – 5-7 page research paper in which you offer a close reading of your play in conversation with the critical discussion of the play. This paper will be peer reviewed, revised, and submitted twice.

Long Paper 2 & Presentation (25%) 6-8 page paper where you analyze your play in relation to its adaptation and the critical context. You’ll also present the adaptation and your interpretation to your peers. The paper will be peer reviewed, revised, and submitted twice.

Final Reflection Paper and ePortfolio (15%) - in lieu of a final exam, you will submit a written reflection on your growth/development as a reader/writer. This will be submitted with a final, polished ePortfolio.

Grading Scale

Final grades for the course will be calculated based on the following:

A:       93.0-100          

A-:      89.6-92.9        

B+       87.0-89.5        

B:        83.6-86.9        

B-        79.6-83.6        

C+:      77.0-79.6

C:        73.6-76.5

C-:       70.0-73.5

D+:      67.0-69.9

D:        64.0-66.9

D-:       60.0-63.9

F:         0-59.9


In general, grades can be understood along the following guidelines:

A: Excellent work. Shows an understanding of and/or engages with ideas discussed in class, is highly persuasive and/or legible to the audience, well-organized, and thoughtful. 
B: Good work that falls short in one or two of the above areas. May not be as well-developed or insightful as an A project or may have the same level of insight but with less skillful execution. 
C: Draft-level work. Shows promise, but would need significant revision to meet the standards of B or A work.
D: Unsatisfactory work. Fails in several of the above areas and would need substantial revision to be successful.
F: Highly unsatisfactory work. Fails in most if not all of the above categories and would need to be completely or almost completely rewritten to meet assignment criteria. Incomplete work also falls into this category.

Late Work

I do not accept late work. I strongly encourage you to turn in a polished, complete version of your assignment by the due date. However, all that is required is that you turn in something, however rough, by the due date. It could be an outline, a paragraph, a rough draft, but it has to be some version of what will become your paper. If you fail to turn in anything by the due date without arranging for an extension at least 24 hours in advance of the due date, you will receive a zero for the assignment and will lose the opportunity for revision. This policy applies to the short papers, the long papers, and the final reflection paper – all of which are eligible for revision.

The late/revision policy does not apply to content produced for your participation "role." If you post your content late or do not post it, there will be a penalty on your participation grade for that day.


You are responsible for making your own decisions regarding attendance. I do not excuse absences, but I do like to be informed about your well-being. If an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, please contact me as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let me know.

Given the nature of the participation component of the class, multiple absences will certainly have a negative impact on your grade. If you miss more than two full weeks of class, you will be withdrawn from the course (WP/WF as is appropriate).

Academic Integrity

Wofford has a strict and clear honor code, and it applies to all work done for this class. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Although we will discuss it in class, you are expected to understand what plagiarism is at this point in your college career. Regardless of your intentions, any suspicion or evidence of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be remanded to the honor council.

For further reading on Wofford’s policies, please refer to the following:

Use of Electronics

You are free to use a laptop or tablet in class if that is how you prefer to interact with text. Please do not use your electronics for non-class purposes. In a class this small, I will definitely notice, and violations will affect your participation grade. Prolonged use may count as an absence.

I will likely be communicating with you via email with some regularity. Email is an official means of communication at Wofford, and you are expected to check it daily.

I make a concerted effort to respond to all emails within 24 hours. I typically only answer email between 9AM and 5PM, so if you send an email after hours, I’ll get to it the next day. Weekend response times are likely to be longer. 

Conferences/Help Beyond Class Time
I'm happy to talk with you about your work at any stage of the writing process. If my office hours don't work for you, please email me to set up an appointment. If you would like feedback on a draft, I ask that you come talk to me in person and that you email me the draft ahead of time. I will read it (time permitting) before our meeting and have questions and comments prepared.


Wofford College seeks to provide disabled students with reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the college. Support for students with special needs is coordinated through Wofford College Wellness Center/ Accessibility Services. Please let me know how I can best assist you.

Further information can be found at the following:

Learning Differences
I expect that students will have different learning styles. For example, you may prefer to process information through reading, so some of our discussion may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and library services, are available to all students. I’m also on a mission to design inclusive assignments and activities, so if you have learning needs I haven’t anticipated, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.