Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSCC2PS1014

Semester and Year Offered: Winter Semester

Course Coordinator and Team: Benil Biswas and SCCE Faculty.

Email of course coordinator:

Pre-requisites: Compulsory for all Performance Studies second semester students, Open as Elective to other disciplines; no prior knowledge assumed.

Course Objectives/Description:

This course is envisaged as an attempt to look at the history and historiography of performance through a non-hegemonic perspective. In order to attain this vision, this course would implement a genealogical model, breaking away from the linear model of historical studies. The attempt is to devise a course that will cut across geographical divisions and categories of performances and performative practices in terms of performance-based categories such as conventions, devices, sites, genres, approaches etc. The course requires reading and viewing of documented videos of different styles and conventions of performances.

The books and videos are available in different libraries across Delhi including Sahitya Akademi, Sangeet Natak Akademi, libraries in Max Mueller Bhavan and French Cultural Centre, apart from video documentations of performance accessible in sites such as Global Shakespeare and Hemispheric Institute. These resources as well as personal resources of faculties will be used for teaching.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Develop basic familiarity with key theatre performance practices through an examination of genres, forms, styles globally.
  • Learn to cultivate conceptual and critical awareness regarding the study of various expressions as mentioned above with a special focus on Historiography.
  • Read, and critically comprehend academic literature, which facilitates exploration of contemporary practices of interpretations of history through performance.
  • Understand the issues related to the relationship between performance and history: performance as a mode of theorizing or doing history and performance as an object of analysis in history.
  • Develop analytical skills and independent thinking to interpret creative arts and foster research skills, which is informed by a strong social quotient, as a pre-requisite for research in history of performance.


Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

Week# 1 Introduction(General Overview/ Evaluation Pattern) 15 Jan and 18 Jan

Week# 2 How Society Remembers ! (22 Jan )

Connerton, Paul. How Societies Remember. Chapter 2. Cambridge University Press, 1989.

Week# 3

Unit –I: Carnival Space and Grotesque Bodies

The unit starts discussion on the carnivalesque concentrating on the link between carnival, power, and market. Bakhtin’s perspective will be placed in relation to Aphra Behn’s Roverand its construction of carnival as both a space of possibilities and a space of violence, and historicising carnival in the context of rise of capitalism in the reading of Stallybrass and Allon White. The last section of the unit will continue the historical enquiry with the historiographical work of Joseph Roach and Diana Taylor.

Week# 3 Carnival-1: Carnivalesque and Grotesque (25 Jan )

Discusses the central concept of carnivalesque and grotesque of Mikhail Bakhtin. Bakhtin’s contextualization of the Renaissance as different from the mainstream interpretation (Renaissance as based on rationality and progress) will be taken up.

1. Mikhail Bakhtin. Rabelais and his World, “Introduction”.

Week# 4 Carnival-2 Restoration Theatre (Jan 29- Feb 1)

1. Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. “Introduction”.The Politics and Poetics of Transgression pp. 1-26.

2. Aphra Behn.The Rover.

Suggested Readings:

1. Diamond, Elin. “Gestus and Signature in Aphra Behn’s Rover”. (In DB)

Week# 5 History and network (Feb 5- Feb 8)

1. Roach, Joseph. “Feathered Peoples”. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. Columbia University Press, 1996, pp 119-178.

Week# 6 Repertoire (Feb 12-15)

1. Taylor, Diana. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. Pp. 1-109.

2. Scott, James. Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Domination and the Arts of Resistance: Hidden Transcripts. Pp. 1-45.

Unit II: Bhakti and Performance:

unit moves through the medieval Bhakti tradition in India, and the relation between transcendence, body and performance. The first week introduces the Marxian framework through D. D. Kosambi and legitimation theory through Champakalaksmi’s article on Bhakti movement. The next week looks at feminist perspective, and the performative potential of transgression of women poet-saints of the medieval period.

Week# 7 (Feb 29) March 7 + March 12 March 14 – presentations?

1. Ramanujan, Attipat Krishnaswami, ed. “Introduction”, Speaking of Śiva. Vol. 270. Penguin, 1973.

2. Kosambi, D. D. “Social and Economic Aspects of Bhagvad Gita”. in Myth and Reality:Studies in the Formation of Indian Culture. 1962. (In DB)

3. Champakalakshmi. “From Devotion and Dissent to Dominance: The Bhakti of the Tamil Alvars and Nayanars”. In Religious movements in South Asia, 600-1800\

Week# 8 (March 7)

1. Ramaswamy, Vijaya. Walking Naked: Women, Society, Spirituality in South India.

2. The Bijak of Kabir. Oxford University Press, 2002.

3. Shukla-Bhatt. “Performance as Translation: Mira in Gujarat”. International Journal of Hindu Studies, 2007. (In DB)

Unit III Enlightenment

The unit will look at the concept of mimesis in Enlightenment and explore its critique within the movements of German Romanticism and Expressionism. Georg Buchner’s landmark play Woyzeck, its recovery by Expressionists and contemporary adaption by Herzog offers a point of discussion and analysis. For studying the emergence of new institutions of modern such as asylum and presentation of human bodies as part of knowledge production/power, the unit discusses Peter Brook’s production of Marat Sade.The unit will then explore the rise of naturalism and realism, the formulation of Brecht and Artaud ending with formulation in post-dramatic theatre

Week # 9 Theatre of Enlightenment- 1 March 14

Roach, Joseph. Chapter 2 Nature Still, But Nature Mechanized and Chapter 4 Diderot in Player’s Passion: Studies in the Science of Acting (In DB)

3. Londré, Felicia Hardison, and Margot Berthold. “Eighteenth Century”. The history of world theater: from the English restoration to the present. A&C Black, 1999, pp 49-190.

4. Wilmer, Stephen Elliot, ed. “Introduction”. National theatres in a changing Europe. Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Suggested Readings:

Kara Reily. Chapter 2 Descarte’s Mimetic Faculty and chapter 3 From Aristocrats to Autocrats (In DB)

2. Diderot. Paradox of Acting (In DB)

Assignment Due March 28th: Book Review. Choose any book from the list below. 1000-1500 words. Review the book with special attention to historiography taking body/performance as the central site of enquiry.

1. Mikhail Bakhtin. Rabelais and his World

2. Stallybrass, Peter and Allon White. The Politics and Poetics of Transgression

3. Joseph Roach. Cities of the Dead: Circum-Atlantic Performance. Columbia University Press, 1996.

4. Vijaya Ramaswamy. Walking Naked: Women, Society, Spirituality in South India

5. Diana Taylor, Archive and the Repertoire

Week# 10 Theatre of Enlightenment -2 (Shomu) March 21

1. Buchner, Georg. Woyzeck (In DB)

2. Gordon Craig: The Actor and the Ubermarionnette.

In class Discussion and Viewing:

1. Herzog.Woyzeck

2. Sarah Bernhardt and Romantic Melodrama

Week# 11: Theatre and Science: Theatre of Enlightenment and Naturalism and Realism (March 28)

Strindberg, August. “Preface” to Miss Julie: A Naturalist Tragedy(In DB)

Ibsen, Dolls House(In DB)

Stanislavski. My Life in Art. (In DB)

Elin Diamond. “Realism and Hysteria: Toward a Feminist Mimesis”. Discourse 13:1 (Fall- Winter 1990–1992. (In DB)

Week# 12: Brecht and Artaud April 11

Antonin Artaud

1. Artaud, Antonin. “On the Balinese Theater” (Chapter 4) and “Oriental and Occidental Theater” (Chapter 5), The Theater and Its Double, trans. Mary Caroline Richards, 1994.

2. Artaud, Antonin, “The Conquest of Mexico”, transl. Bentley, Eric., in The Theory of the Modern Stage, London: Penguin Books, 1968.


Derrida, Jacques. "The Theater Of Cruelty and The Closure Of Representation." Theater 9.3 (1978): 6-19.

Bertolt Brecht

1. Brecht, Bertolt. “On Chinese Acting”, trans. Eric Bentley, in Brecht Sourcebook, ed. Carol Martin and Henry Bial, London, New York: Routledge, 2000, pp. 13-20.

2. “Bertolt Brecht and Couragemodell 1949: Meaning in Detail”, (Production Notes) in Great Directors at Work: Stanislavsky, Brecht, Kazan, Brook, David Richard Jones, University of California Press, 1986, pp. 78-137.


1. Brecht, Bertolt. The Threepenny Opera. Grove Press, 1964.

2. Brecht, Bertolt. "Mother Courage and her children, trans." E. Bentley, 1962.

3. Understanding Brecht: Walter Benjamin (Verso: London, 1998), Introduction and Pages 1-25.


Marat Sade 1967 (Written by Peter Weiss, Directed by Peter Brook, Royal Shakespeare Company)

Week#13:Post Dramatic Theatre (April 18)

Lehmann, Hans-Thies. Postdramatic theatre. Routledge, 2006.

Week# 14 Modernity and Performance (April 22)

1. Hansen, Kathryn. The Grounds for Play: The Nautanki Theatre of North India. California: University of California Press. 1992.

2. Alter, J. S. ‘Subaltern Bodies and Nationalist Physiques: Gama the Great and the Heroics of Indian Wrestling’. Body & Society 2000 6: 45.

Week# 15 Winding up and Student Presentations April 25

Assessment Details with weights:

Requirements for the following assignments will be discussed in class.

1. Short essays written in preparation for class and regular informal presentations related to assigned readings (15% each, 30%)

2. Class Presentation (15%)

3. Three Archive presentations (10% each, 30% total)

4. Term Paper abstract Submission (5%)

3. Final Term paper (30%)

4. Attendance & (informed participation in discussion (10%)

Late work is not accepted for this seminar-lecture course. All work must be properly formatted, and carefully proofread. I don’t accept papers via email, all submissions will be via moodle.

Short essays:During four of the first six weeks of the semester, pick a passage from one of the readings to which you have a strong response (either positive or negative). Write a short essay (3-4 pages, double spaced) exploring the connections between this extract and at least three other assigned readings. Timely completion of these essays counts as part of the participation grade, but the essays will not themselves be graded. The schedule of readings and assignments includes final deadlines for each essay, but you are welcome to turn them in earlier.

Argument presentations:During each meeting from week 2 through week 6, each student will analyze the argument of an assigned reading. This 5- to 10-minute presentation should identify the writer’s thesis and conclusions, briefly summarize the supporting argument, and analyze the essay structure: Where does the author place the various parts of the argument? Are they easy to locate? How does the essay engage with other literature in theatre and performance studies, and with other fields? What positive or negative examples does the essay offer for your own scholarship and writing? These presentations count as part of the participation grade. Please note the brevity desired for these presentations and prepare a succinct analysis. Assume that everyone has read the essay.

Individual Research Project/Term Paper:Each student will complete a research project in performance history, resulting in a seminar paper of 18-20pages(4500-5000 words) due in draft at week 11 and in final form at the end of the semester. One class period will be a writing workshop used to address issues identified through peer evaluation of your draft as well as my comments. Then during the final exam period, you will present a 10-minute summary of the paper. This project is a good opportunity to work on a dissertation chapter, to explore a potential dissertation topic, or develop an article for publication.This semester what is expected is something of more substance and greater length than a conference paper. Please note that a formal abstract (350 words, + bibliography) is due at week 7, at the same time as your first archive presentation. Meet with me well in advance of this to ensure that you have a viable project.

Archive Presentations:During weeks 7-9, each student will present three analyses of material related to the research project: (1) a book written prior to 1970, (2) a book written since 1995, and (3) a MA dissertation. The presentations will view the materials, which may or may not turn out to be of substantive use to your own writing, from a historiographic perspective. Topics to address include the nature of the archive, methodological and theoretical approaches both explicit and implicit, positioning within field(s) of discourse, and structure of the argument.

Reading List:

See above.