ENG4454 – Tom Stoppard’s Drama of Ideas
Schedule, syllabus and examination date
Tom Stoppard is the preeminent English playwright of ideas, and this course will be devoted to studying four of his most distinguished plays: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (1967), Travesties (1974), Arcadia (1993), and The Invention of Love (1997). Each of these plays uses the resources of drama to drive an inquiry into a distinct complex of philosophical, literary, and historigraphical questions. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead poses intriguing questions about determinism, chance, and free will—as does Arcadia, from the very different perspective of mathematical chaos. Travesties considers the politics and aesthetics of the avant-garde through the figures of Joyce, Lenin and Tzara. The Invention of Love interrogates the problematical relationship between life, biography, and art. Moreover, each of these works plays against earlier literary works and sustains a fascinating dialogue with literary tradition. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead occupies, or rather invents, the margins of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Travesties ‘travesties’ Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Arcadia engages the European tradition of literary pastoral, and The Invention of Love draws on the classicist and poet A. E. Housman’s life, scholarship and poetry to examine salient tensions in late Victorian culture.
The aim of this course will be to examine the interplay between literary tradition, Stoppard’s dramatic ideas, and the intellectual material presented in the plays. Adopting a perspective indebted to recent reception studies, the course will not only consider how intellectual problems and literary traditions inform Stoppard’s plays, but also how the plays, in reconfiguring their intellectual and literary materials, may also help us to creatively rethink those materials.
After completing this course you will have:
- developed a vocabulary for discussing the relationship between Stoppard’s ideas and dramatic techniques.
- learned to analyze plays as a means of thinking creatively and rigorously about historical events, traditions and debates.
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Formal prerequisite knowledge
Admission to master program in literature or LeP
The course is taught throughout the semester with two hours per week for 10 weeks, 20 hours in all.
Attendance is an obligatory class requirement (80%). Additional absences must be justified by documentation to the exam coordinator. Read more about guidelines for compulsory activities.
The exam is a term paper of 10 standard pages. Students will have an opportunity to receive commentary on drafts of their papers.
You must submit your final paper in Fronter. Read more about submission procedures.
The term paper is the basis for the grade in this course.
Language of examination
Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.
Explanations and appeals
Resit an examination
Withdrawal from an examination
It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.
Special examination arrangements
Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.