Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Worth of the Acting Profession

This question of the worth of dramatic acting -- "do actors improve or debase civil order? -- is grave. Denied entry into the ideal republic by Plato for the unworthiness of a life comprised of (absent justification) impostery; exposed by Dr. Johnson backstage for their titillating inveteracy; and compromised in advance of advocacy by their brotherhoood resounding allegient oaths to its thespian Prince, de Sade, the question is seemingly answered negatively in the very asking.

More than this, culpatory for actors is their (characteristically self-centrered) perennial fixation on their own worth. Bis interimitur qui suis armis perit. The prosecutorial case is condensed in the Shakepearean dictum "The lady doth protest too much, methinks." (Hamlet, III, ii, 239.)

By way of example, consider a certain local wretch who, in mid-life still a drudge in servile trade, trumpets at any opportunity the 'surpassing regard' of his co-menials long past; would this unfortunate not be recognised universally as all but proving the meanness of his trade thereby? To quote again Dr. Johnson:
Sir, all the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil. You never find people labouring to convince you that you may live very happily upon a plentiful fortune.
Paraphrasing for the present case, you never find people 'labouring to convince' that neurosurgery is a worthy & substantial profession.

This brings us to our lectures on Shakespeare in Love. The presence of perpetual self-engagement among theatrati is manifested (knowingly) in this screenplay in the villainisation of the Master of Revels and (unknowingly) as the guilt experienced by the character William Shakespeare at his impostory as Christopher Marlower: imposture being, by very definition, the whole business and purpose of actory.

Likewise, the ubiquity of scenes, lines and drama entire covering the drunkensome and erotomaniacal tenor of dramaturgy tells. Instance, from Yes, Minister, ostensibily on politicians:
But people on stages are called actors. All they are required to do is look plausible, stay sober and say the lines they are given in the right order. Those that try to make up their own lines generally do not last long.
Felix qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas ....

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lecture Sides

Combined lecture slides are available here. Do be careful to remember that lecture slides are the wrong way to prepare for the Final Exam...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Shaw's Fabianism in Comparison

FABIAN (Socialist)—benevolent power of the State.

WHIGISM—individual is the primary unit, and individual expression & protection is the highest social good (Capitalism & Darwinism.)

TORYISM—small social units & tradition are the social good, non-internationalism (local is best.)

Monday, February 28, 2011

Lecturer's Office Change

My office move has finally been completed: I am now in FASS 5192.

Monday, February 14, 2011

NLP and Derren Brown

Here are links to the 'neuro-linguistic programming' clips that we viewed from the English mentalist Derren Brown who is doing something for a living that Shakespeare does, in part, for his drama. (Thanks to classfellow CS for the suggestion.)

Tragedy and Comedy

More useful questions from students came after class today. One required clarification of the Aristotle's treatment of two types of drama: Tragedy and Comedy.

Remember that Tragedy is imitation of actions of men or women that are better than ourselves, and Comedy is imitation of actions of men or women that are worse than ourselves.

Tragedy (in Aristotle's Dramatic sense) is not a synonym for "sadness" nor is Comedy (in Aristotle's Dramatic sense) a synonym for humour. Tragedy can contain humour and Comedy can express sadness.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

MId-Term Topics

Following the Mid-Term essay criteria listed in the course syllabus, below are the topics from which you chose one. The five-paragraph model detailed in lecture will form the basis of your essay, and, along with the parsimony criterion, are the expectation of your marker.
  1. Use Aristotle's doctrine of the Golden Mean to explain the requirements of effective character (in the sense of dramatis personae) detailed in the Poetics.
  2. Dr. Johnson sets forward a very compelling principle of quality by which drama (and by extension art generally) can be judged. Detail his principle, expound it in terms of common sense, and give your evaluation of its validity. You may consider using any dramatic work of less than a century's vintage to help illustrate your argument.
  3. Does Æschylus give a dialectic or a didactic treatment of Fate in Prometheus Bound? Use proof by both quotation and logic to support your determination.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Lecture Terms

Some terms from lecture defined:
  • tautology -- lit. "same-saying": a repetition of the same statement.
  • dilemma -- lit. "double proposition":  a situations involving the choice of two (or, loosely, more) alternatives, either of which is (or appears) equally unfavourable.
In Prometheus' opening soliloquy, Æschylus uses these and other lingustic devices of intensification to help impress the force of Prometheus' situation the more effectively in the minds of his drama's audiences. This profound felicity with language--using the full range of the grammatical, rhetorical, etymological and idiomatic resources available--is a characteristic of (indeed almost a criterion for) first-order dramatic geniuses such as Æschylus, Shakespeare and Shaw.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Our Working Definition of "Drama"

From John Dryden (1631-1700) An Essay of Dramatic Poesy, drama is:
… a just and lively image of human nature, reproducing the passions and humours, and the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight and instruction of mankind.
A very great deal is contained in this brief definition: be sure to tease out its full range of specific and inter-related meaning from lecture.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Grades Bonus: Final Examination

As I promised in our opening lecture, I am offering a ten percent bonus on the Final Examination to the entire class, on the condition that no-one uses a data device during lectures for any purpose other taking offline notes.

So, so long as no-one, absolutely no-one, opens a chat window, sends or receives a text message, watches a video -- in short, anything but writes text on a full screen -- then the entire class will receive a free ten percent on the Final Examination.

(All by way of encouraging proper focus in an Age of distraction.)

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Course Website FAQ

Here are FAQ about the course website.
  • The 5 most recent posts are displayed on the main page.
  • A permanent link list, entitled "Pertinent & Impertinent" is always visible on the sidebar of the course website, containing direct links to crucial information.
  • Also on the sidebar, always visible, is the "Blog Archive" displaying direct links to all posts on the course website.
  • The "Blog Archive" has a section for 2006 in addition to 2010. Links for our Summer 2010 course are under the "2010" section. The 2006 archive is for previous iterations of the course which may, or may not, be interesting for you.
  • An "Older Posts" hotlink is always visible at the bottom of the main page which displays the next 5 most recent posts.
  • Certain PowerPoint lecture slides are occasionally posted on the course website.

Course E-Mail Netiquette

Here are the points of e-mail protocol for our course :

  1. E-mail (indeed, all communication) between Lecturer and student, and TA and student, is a formal and professional exchange. Accordingly, proper salutation and closing is essential.
  2. Business e-mail is courteous but, of professional necessity, concise and direct. It rejects roundabout or ornate language, informal diction, and any appearance of what is termed in the vernacular, 'chat.'
  3. Customary response time for student e-mail to the Course Lecturer or TAs is two to three office days. E-mail on weekends will ordinarily be read the Monday following.
  4. Use only your SFU account for e-mail to the course Lecturer. All other e-mail is blocked by whitelist.
In general, Course e-mail is for matters of Course administration solely. It is not an alternative to, nor substitute for, Office Hours or Tutorial. All questions about understanding of lecture material, course reading, assignment criteria, and deadlines are reserved for Tutorial and Office Hours.

Missed classes and deadlines are not to be reported by e-mail: if a medical or bereavement exception is being claimed, the supporting documentation is handed in, along with the completed assignment, either in person or to the Instructor's mailbox outside the Department Office.

Course Syllabus

Course Syllabus & Information

Be up-to-date with the following reading schedule and you will be ahead of lecture.
  1. Below is a schedule for student readings; not a schedule of lecture material.
  2. Lecture is not a Procrustean bed : week by week, lecture will follow the developing class interests and course dynamic; all material will, sublimely, be covered by course end.
Reading Schedule

Week 1: Aristotle, The Poetics
Week 2: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Week 3: Aeschylus, Prometheus Bound
Week 4: Dr. Johnson - Preface to Shakespeare
Week 5: Dr. Johnson - Preface to Shakespeare

Week 6: Shakespeare, Henry V
Week 7: Shakespeare, Henry V

Week 8: Shaw, Saint Joan
Week 9: Shaw, Saint Joan

Week 10: Mishima, Madame de Sade
Week 11: Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap
Week 12: Agatha Christie, The Mousetrap
Week 13: Review.

Assignment Deadlines.
There is a twenty-five percent per day late penalty for all assignments, documented medical or bereavement leave excepted. For medical exemptions, provide a letter from a physician on letterhead which declares his or her medical judgement that illness or injury prevented work on the essay. The letter must cover the entire period over which the assignment was scheduled and may be verified by telephone. For any matter affecting deadlines, consult with the TA in person and before the assignment period.

Schedule of Assignment Due Dates.
(Assignments coded by colour. See separate assignment posts for details.)

January 6th or 10th, Group Project members set: in tutorial.
February 3rd, Mid-Term Essay topics posted.
February 24th, Mid-Term Essay due: in lecture.
March 10th Mid-Term Essay returned graded: in lecture.
March 24th Mid Term Revision due: in lecture.
April 7th, Mid-Term Revision returned graded: in lecture.
April 7th or 11th, Group Project due: in tutorial.
April 13th, 8:30AM - 11:30AM , Final Examination, Room TBA.

Nb: “Participation (10% of course grade) requires participation, and punctuality in seminar and punctual attendance at lecture."

Instructor Contact:
Office Hours: Surrey Campus FASS 5192 Mondays 11:30-12:30pm. E-mail to
TA is Dr. Stanley Green (ABD), e-mail to

 Assignments Overview

1. Mid term essay, fifteen hundred words: due February 24th in lecture. Assignment sheet with suggested topics will be blogged on February 3rd. Criteria will include literary analysis, engagement with course themes and writing mechanics.
2. Mid-Term paper, revision: due March 24th in lecture. Corrections to the mid-term essay according to the TA's comments and analysis. Grade is determined by the quality of the revisions, not the independent quality of the revised essay itself.
3. Group television analysis: With a group of classfellows from seminar, you will watch a current television programme throughout the term and make notes on how it stands up to the ideals of drama presented in lecture. You will then collaborate with your group members and design a dramatical presentation of your analysis to be acted in seminar weeks twelve and thirteen. There will be one group grade assigned; determined by your seminar instuctor.
4. Individual seminar participation: attendance, punctuality and productive contributions.
5. Final Examination: April 13th, 8:30AM - 11:30AM  Place TBA, covering material from lecture exclusively.

Course Approach
The course will introduce you to Drama from the perspective of literary scholarship. That is, we will examine methods by which playwrights dramatise Ideas to "instruct by delighting." The plays in the course are each accompanied by a famous commentary that has historically shaped how its dramatical ideas are interpreted and experienced. This means, of course, that we within the literary canon give less attention to the performance -- what we might call the theatrics -- of drama than is the case, for instance, in Departments of Fine Art. That being said, our course will not neglect the thespian dimension. To better understand the commentaries accompanying our important plays, we will consider the question of why anyone cares what actors have to say once they are off the stage.
Actors are far -- very far indeed -- from being celebrated for their wide & grave learning; their responsible private behavior; their steady emotions; their self-denial; their public morality; their humility, sobriety or piety. Ghandis and Mother Theresas, they, in a word, are not. Yet in our celebrity culture, who more celebrated? whose opinions more eagerly solicted? whose obiter dicta sell more magazines? If we understand this modern peculiarity, we will better understand the ages-long criticisms of Drama and its place in civil society.

Course requirement weighting:
10%  Productive participation
20%  Mid-Term Essay
15%  Mid-Term Essay Revision
20%  Group Television Project
35%  Final Examination

Nb: “Participation requires both participation in seminar and attendance and punctuality at lecture and seminar."

Group Assignment: TV-Analysis

This week in seminar we will set memberships for the Group Assignment. The deadlines & broad outline are given in the course syllabus.

The assignment is designed to help us determine whether the claim, made in our course rubric, that "..... television is furniture" is accurate or is instead merely an expression of theatre snobbery.

Each group will agree on one television programme to be watched as drama for the weeks of our course. Members will take notes that evaluate their chosen progamme against specific criteria from the critical writers explained in lecture: one of Aristotle, Dr. Johnson, Shaw, or Mishima. These notes will then be pooled within the group, summarised, and then used to create a dramatical representation of your group conclusions. Your drama will then be acted in seminar on one of the last two course weeks -- you will sign up for your presentation date when your seminar leader assigns the group memberships. The presentation will be between five and fifteen minutes in length.

There is no restriction on the type of TV programme you can select: if, for instance, you think TV News is a form of drama then simply analyse one news show as being such. When meeting to create your drama, you will be able to apply & use the dramatical principles introduced in lecture. Seminar time will be provided throughout the term for group work on this assignment, but of course the more time together you put in, the better your grade will be on what amounts to a full 20% of your final course mark. Should your group wish it, I can set you up with a blog so that you can exchange ideas and store your progress online and at your own convenience. Simply stop by any Office Hour, or make a special appointment.

You will find that this assignment is captivating and beneficial in equal proportion. Each group should have one member assigned who is experienced in, or at least comfortable with, dramatic performance: not every member of the group needs to take an acting part -- each group can assign the individual group duties as it sees fit. There will be one group grade for all the members, determined by the tutorial leader.

Essay Marking: Copy-Editing Symbols

Follow this link, as well as this other link, for a legend of the standard copy-editing symbols used in the marking of your essays

Some of the more frequently-used are the following.
  • SYN: faulty syntax
  • GR: faulty grammar
  • AWK: awkward wording or awkward expression of idea.
  • SP: faulty spelling
  • PRON: missing or faulty pronoun.
  • AGR: faulty agreement (grammar.)
  • T: incorrect tense (grammar.)
  • M: incorrect mood (grammar.)
  • //: lack of correct parallelism
  • ¶ : faulty paragraph structure
  • CAP: capitalise
  • MM: mixed metaphor
  • NO CAP: don't capitalise
  • WDY: excessive, roundabout or unhelpful wording that obscures the argument.
  • ARG: argument required.
  • DEV: faulty or missing development of the argument
  • D: faulty diction (e.g. use of jargon or informal idiom.)
  • PASS: passive (usually adjectival rather than adverbial) form
  • WC: faulty word choice
  • WW: wrong word
  • PURPLE: gradiloquent section: ornate, florid or overly-written piece of incongruous writing.
  • LITOTES: unnecessary and unhelpful use of negative construction.
  • RELEV: irrelevant remark.
  • PETITIO: a petitio principii ('begging the question')—assuming as a conclusion that which needs to be established as a premis. Often in essay argument, a statement delivered as a proof which itself is as yet unproven.
  • UNCL: unclear expression of an idea
  • ARTIC: missing or mistaken use of grammatical article.
  • REP: repetitive wording or repetition of a previously-presented idea.
  • REL: faulty relation of idea or no clear relation to surrounding idea.
  • TRUISM: statement of the obvious: unnecessary.
  • C&E: mistake between cause and effect
  • P: faulty punctuation.
  • ITAL: italicise this text.
  • DEL: unnecessary text requiring deletion
  • PLEON: pleonasm
  • REPORT: book report--i.e. absence of argument. 
  • CIT: missing citation
  • DANGL: dangling modifier.
  • STR: faulty or absent argument structure.
  • R-O: run-on sentence.
  • FRAG: sentence fragment
  • THESIS: misplaced thesis-level sentence
  • X: false statement.
  • SS: faulty sentence structure
  • INDIR: indirect expression of idea--often weak or padded syntax.

How To: Writing Group Project Outlines

Outlines for Creative Assignments and Group Projects can be helpfully constructed as failure standards. Failure standards are a real-world use of the falsification concept from experimental science, where a theory becomes ranked as scientific only when it is capable of being falsified in a replicable experiment.

So, for your assignment proposals, if you chose to adopt this valuable format, you would list (in either essay or point form) the full set of criteria by which your project can be gauged to have failed. for example "Our project will have failed if:"
  • the project does not advance an academic thesis.
  • the project does not have [some measurable degree of] quality
  • the project does not identifiably incorporate material from relevent scholarship
  • the project fails to relate directly to some number of the primary course texts
  • the project fails to represent and demonstrate advanced understanding of the central ideas of the course
  • &c, &c.
This effectively prevents creativity from being substituted by open license.

Additionally, proposals are accompanied by a concise justification of the academic validity of the project being proposed.

An effective proposal describes (nb. look up the etymology of this word in the OED) three components of a project:
  1. Area
  2. Range
  3. Structure
The Area is the specific subject of your project: e-mail writing, for instance. Range delimits the specific aspect of your subject: courtesy and professional manner in e-mail, say. And Structure outlines the manner in which the project will formed.

Two pages is a reasonable length for a proposal of this type, four pages at most.

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Dividing Post

Posts above this are from the current, Spring 2011, iteration of Engl 103W, Surrey Campus.

Posts below this are from previous iterations of Engl 103W. You may, or may not, find these outdated posts interesting.