Fall 2014


Professor Frederick Lamp

Africa has given us some of the most spectacular performances on earth, combining the arts of dance, music, theater, as well as painting and sculpture into a single indivisible form. Masquerade has reached its pinnacle of achievement in Africa, and African music, with its unique polyrhythms is a heritage unparalleled. In this course we will look at ten specific works of African performance from antiquity through the twenty-first century, examining documentary films, archival and contemporary photographs, and audio recordings, guided by the lecturer's first-hand experience in research into art and performance of all kinds on the continent of Africa and in its export globally. We will investigate works from throughout the African experience, in contexts of royal display, religious ritual, rites of passage, ancestral veneration, social and political commentary, protest, generational and gender conflict and resolution, popular celebration, street theater, nationalism, theatricalization of tradition, and creative work by Africa's foremost choreographers and musicians today. We will explore all aspects of the production of performance from conception through the choreography of movement, the composing of songs, the rigorous training and rehearsal of dancers, singers and players of musical instruments, the preparation of masks and costumes, the considerations of space, lighting and timing, the preparatory social negotiations, the total involvement of actors and audience in the performance itself, and the post-production aspects. We will look at performances from all ages and contexts with regard to concepts of individual agency and creativity, timeless tradition, ritual repetition, cultural conventions, and transition into the present.



Professor Judith Malafronte

An introduction to opera, focusing on the Metropolitan Opera Company’s “Live in HD” transmissions of Verdi’s Macbeth (October 11), Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro (October 18), Bizet’s Carmen (November 1), Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia (November 22), and Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (December 13). 

We will use these five operas as jumping off points in our examination of librettos and source material, as well as the social and musical conventions of opera. We will consider dramaturgy, casting requirements and the concept of vocal Fach, language, artistic collaboration, the rehearsal process, reception and criticism, along with the historical aspects of opera production. There will be relevant readings from a wide variety of sources, as well as viewing and listening homework, available on YouTube.

Participants should plan to view these Saturday afternoon broadcasts at a local cinema, or attend a live performance at the Metropolitan Opera. Information about the broadcasts, as well as a list of theaters, is available here: http://www.metopera.org/metopera/liveinhd/live-in-hd-2014-15-season. The schedule of live performances for the entire season is available at www.metopera.org.



Professor Traugott Lawler

Of Jane Austen’s six novels, the course will read and discuss Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Persuasion, in the order in which she wrote them. Professor Lawler recommends the Penguin Classics editions, because they have good introductions and notes, a pleasing page, and feel good in the hand. 



Professor Stephen Latham

This course will approach contemporary issues in bioethics by teaching students about certain common forms of argument that are used again and again in debating the ethics of cutting-edge biomedicine. We will learn the basic structure of a number of different arguments, and see how they’re applied to bioethics issues. Arguments to be discussed include “slippery slope” arguments, the Doctrine of Double Effect, the distinction between Doing and merely allowing, arguments about “personhood,” arguments from intuition and by analogy, arguments about personal identity and “non-identity,” and arguments from “the natural.” Topics that we’ll mobilize these arguments to discuss include abortion, end-of-life care, assisted suicide, assisted reproduction, the ethics of using animals in medical experiments, and more.  



Professor Fred Robinson

A survey of the major historical events affecting the development of the English language, followed by an analysis of the ways in which the vocabulary of English is constantly expanded (with emphasis on borrowings from foreign languages). The course will consider how the pronunciation of the language has changed over time, and (briefly) how the grammatical system has evolved. Time permitting we shall give some attention to the dialects of British and American English.



Professor Gordon Turnbull

From classical times to the present, the literature of tragedy has posed searching ethical and emotional questions about us as beings capable both of great nobility and of great error, of grandeur and of grotesquery, of immense charity and of immense cruelty.  Critics and spectators have long wondered about what so compels us to attend spectacles of suffering. This course will explore these questions through discussion of works selected from such authors Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides, Shakespeare, Racine, Ibsen, Chekhov and Beckett.

[Note:  this course will function as both a sequel and a supplement to the version of the course given by Professor Turnbull in Fall 2013, offering a different selection of plays by these authors. All welcome.]



Professor Jeffrey L. Sammons

A rapid tour through both parts of Goethe's Faust, in either English or German, as the participant prefers. The colloquium welcomes those who have read one or both parts of Faust in the past as well as those who have known this is something they should do but have not yet got around to it.



Professor Michael Holquist

This 8 week seminar is organized roughly around texts and questions that animate two of Yale's major Literature courses, Directed Studies/ Literature and Literature 120.  Questions will focus on issues such as: What is fictional about 'fiction'? What are the basic elements of narrative?  How is point of view governed?  Possible authors would include Aristotle (fragment), Sophocles, Poe, Conan Doyle, Borges, plus examples from Midrash, Koans, fairy tales, riddles, and nonsense.



Professor Brian Jordan

Reconstruction is, perhaps, the most little known segment of American history. Even professional historians cannot agree on basic questions about the period: when did Reconstruction end (or did it)? What did Reconstruction need to accomplish, and why did it fail? Is Reconstruction our “unfinished” American revolution, a revolution that went backwards, the era of citizenship, or something else? What are the geographic boundaries of Reconstruction?  Was it possible for Americans reeling from a bloody war to achieve both "healing" and "justice"?  Together, we will tackle these questions by reading and discussing cutting-edge scholarship in the field.  We will examine the struggles for civil rights; violence and terrorism; and the political, cultural, emotional, regional, and gendered histories of Reconstruction.