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Classic Spanish Plays: Love, Violence, and (Poetic) Justice on the Early Modern Stage
SPAN 231
Fall 2021
Section: 01  
Crosslisting: COL 313, THEA 231

From 1580 to 1690, Spanish and Latin American playwrights created one of the great dramatic repertoires of world literature, as inventive, varied, and influential as the classical Greek and Elizabethan-Jacobean English traditions. A distinguishing feature of this theatrical tradition is the unusual prominence it lent to actresses (and roles written for them), as well as to women in the paying audiences. This profit-driven popular entertainment of its day appealed to the learned and illiterate, to women and men, and to rich and poor alike. And the plays correspondingly mixed high and low characters, language, genres, and sources, with results regularly attacked by moralists. Vital, surprising, and ingenious, they exposed the creative tension between art and profit on a new scale, a tension that remains alive for us. We will examine five of the greatest of these plays by Cervantes, Lope de Vega, Calderón de la Barca, Tirso de Molina, and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (in Mexico or "New Spain") in a variety of genres and modes (history, epic, romantic comedy, tragedy, Islamic borderland, metatheater, parody, siege play, philosophical and theological drama), with their deft character portraits (the original Don Juan by Tirso; Calderón's "Spanish Hamlet" Segismundo; Lope's spitfire diva Diana, the Countess of Belflor; and Sor Juana's cross-dressing comic virtuosi) and their spirited dialogue, inventive plots, and dazzling metrical variety. We will look at the social conditions that enabled the Spanish stage to serve as a kind of civic forum, where conflicts between freedom and authority or desire and conformism could be acted out and the fears, hopes, dangers, and pleasures generated by conquest, urbanization, trade, shifting gender roles, social mobility, religious reform, regulation of matrimony and violence, and clashing intellectual and political ideals could be aired. We pay particular attention to the shaping influence of women on the professional stage (in contrast to England) and to performance spaces and traditions. Organized around the careful reading of five key play-texts in Spanish, together with historical, critical, and theoretical readings, this course assumes no familiarity with the texts, with Spanish history, or with literary analysis. However, an interest in engaging these wonderful plays closely, imaginatively, and historically is essential. There will be opportunities to pursue performance, adaptation, and translation.

This counts as a Theater Method course for the Theater Major.
Credit: 1 Gen Ed Area Dept: HA RLAN
Course Format: SeminarGrading Mode: Graded
Level: UGRD Prerequisites: None
Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (COL)(HISP)(RMST)(THEA)
Past Enrollment Probability: 90% or above

Last Updated on JUL-15-2024
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