Jeffrey H. Richards
Old Dominion University

The Transatlantic Stage: Drama and Theater in British America and the United States, 1675-1860


English 691 Course-Pack.  Available at Copytron on Hampton Blvd. (CP)

Farquhar, George.  The Recruiting Officer and Other Plays.  Ed. William Myers. Oxford UP, 1995.

Kritzer, Amelia, ed.  Plays by Early American Women, 1775-1850.  Ann Arbor: U of Michigan P, 1995. (PEAW)

Richards, Jeffrey H., ed.  Early American Drama.  New York: Penguin, 1997.


1     short critical essay (5 pages/1200-1500 words) on scheduled play   15%
1     treatment (3 pages/750-850 words) on non-scheduled play              10%
1     research essay (10 pages/2500-3000 words)                                   30%
1     oral report                                                                                       10%
1     final examination                                                                               25%
       class discussion                                                                                10%
Total                                                                                                      100%

Course Description

This course, offered as a graduate seminar in English, examines the transatlantic connection among British drama and theater, America as a subject of that drama, and the emerging colonial, then national American stage.  Readings will focus on plays from Restoration and eighteenth-century Britain and later eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century English North America, from Aphra Behn to Dion Boucicault.  Issues of racial, gendered, and national identities, the politics of theater itself, and the use of the stage to air topical concerns–slavery, Indian suppression, and war–will be explored.  We will consider what British plays were popular on American stages and how American playwrights adapted British models to conditions in the New World.  Is all America a (British) stage?

1.  Papers

All papers must conform to basic standards for scholarly writing: be typed, double-spaced, have proper margins, original title, be paginated, fastened (no folders or plastic binders), with documentation in MLA format, including Works Cited page for all essays.   A title page is not necessary for the shorter papers, but in all cases, name, class, date, and assignment name must accompany essay title on the first page or title page.

· Treatment: Choose a play from the list of British and American dramas that are not scheduled to be read and write a brief critical treatment of it in the following manner: 1) paragraph of introduction that gives basic information on when the play was written, by whom, the early performance history; 2) paragraph that describes the basic plot and theme(s); 3) additional paragraphs that identify a critical problem in the text as it relates to issues of plays and playwrights we are reading or of themes we are addressing.  This cannot be longer than 3 double-spaced pages.

· Short Critical Essay: Select a play from the scheduled readings.  Isolate a single dimension–a reading from theory, a theme, development of a particular character, use of a type, aspect of language, or similar approach–and argue for a reading of that text that will help us see something that is not obvious at first encounter.  Keep author biography or historical background to a minimum, unless it is directly connected to the argument–make every word count.  This paper does not need to be directly tied to the transatlantic concept.

· Research Essay: Choose a topic connected to one or more of the plays that is directly related to the theme of the course.  One possibility is to look at an American play and its British model or ancestor, in the style of the article, “How to Write an American Play”; others include in-depth analyses of particular dimensions of identity formation, theater history as a kind of criticism of a particular play, or other themes generated by class discussion or personal reading.  Eligible plays include plays from both scheduled and unscheduled lists.  This paper must include documented research, including at least four articles from professional journals and two other sources–book chapters or books, primarily; web sites may be used in addition to books and articles, but not as substitutes for basic library research.  Electronic versions of whole articles from professional journals are acceptable, as are citations from reserve readings.  This paper gives you the greatest opportunity for individualized instruction and, while building on class discussion and lecture, for you to go outside the class for information and thought.

2.  Other
 · Oral Report: Before our discussion of a particular play, a class member will provide introductory remarks for 10-15 minutes.  The best reports provide insights and information that the rest of the class would not get just by reading the play or other scheduled readings–and relate that information or those insights to topics directly relevant to the larger theme of the seminar.  Keep author background to a minimum–just enough to establish identity or perspective.  One type of report that will always be helpful will be theatrical history in America.  When, where, and how often was Cato produced in the colonies, for instance?  One of the questions we will ask of the British plays particularly is, Why was this play popular in America?

· Class discussion: A seminar lives on the collective efforts of its members.  Although the instructor or someone giving a report may “lecture” for a time, the point of the class is to pursue topics by pooling our resources.  I put a high premium on the quality of that sharing.  Therefore, it is incumbent on class members to make a reasonable effort to read the material and come to class prepared to offer observations.  Summer classes are compressed, but must have the same rigor as fall or spring classes.  That means all of us must set up a structured schedule of reading to be ready for class time.  The course promises to be an intense six weeks, but all will benefit from your diligence during this period.

· Final Examination: On the last class day, you will be asked to write essays in response to some comparative style questions.  These is an open-book exam, but the questions will be such that one will have to write a lot during the four-hour exam period.


If you have problems that seriously compromise your ability to do the work, do let me know.  Otherwise,

· Readings are due on the date assigned on the schedule.
· Papers are due on the dates assigned on the schedule.
· More than two absences could negatively affect class discussion grade.
· All rules about original work and avoiding plagiarism apply.  Please remember to cite all sources used in the preparation of an essay, even if the source is paraphrased or summarized, not quoted.
If you need a conference, I will do my best to find a mutually agreeable time.  However, I am also available by email.  Do not hesitate to contact me by email to ask questions about material.

A Note on Resources:

 Many of the non-scheduled plays can be found on microform at ODU; verse plays can often be found through the library internet database, English Verse Drama.  If you can’t find a non-scheduled play, let me know–I may be able to help you locate a copy.  Background for many authors can be found in appropriate volumes of the Dictionary of Literary Biography in the Reference room of the library.  Find the latest volume and look in the index–each volume indexes all previous ones in the series.  For colonial theatrical history in America, use the library computer data base, The performing arts in colonial American newspapers, 1690-1783.

Reading List

6/26 Introduction

6/28 Foundations: Plays about America, Plays Popular in America
            Behn, The Widow Ranter (CP)
                [NS: Thomas Shadwell, The Woman Captain]
            Addison, Cato (CP)
                [NS: Thomas Otway, Venice Preserv’d]

            Richards, “The Field or the Stage: Democracy, Theater, and Anglo-American Culture,” Theater Enough: American Culture and the Metaphor of the World Stage, 1607-1789 (Duke UP, 1991), 177-200.
            Julie Ellison, “Cato’s Tears,” in Cato’s Tears and the Making of Anglo-American Emotion (U of Chicago P, 1999), 48-73.

7/3 American landscape, Anglo-American stage
Part 1: British theatrical visions of America
            Southerne, Oroonoko (CP)
                [NS: John Dryden, The Indian Queen]
                [NS: John Dryden, All for Love]
            Colman, Inkle and Yarico (CP)
                [NS: Isaac Bickerstaff, The Padlock]

            Richard Ligon, A True and Exact History of the Island of Barbados, in Caribbeana: An Anthology of English Literature of the West Indies, ed. Thomas Krise (U of Chicago P, 1999), 29-30.
            Thomas Tryon, Friendly Advice to Gentlemen Planters of the East and West Indies, in Caribbeana, 51-76.
            Frances Seymour, “The Story of Inkle and Yarico” and “An Epistle . . .” in Caribbeana, 141-46.
            See also Frank Felsenstein, ed., English Trader, Indian Maid (Johns Hopkins UP, 1999), for additional materials on the Inkle and Yarico story

7/5 Part 2: From British to American; or, How to Write an American Play
            Cumberland, The West Indian  (CP)
                [NS: Samuel Foote, The Patron]
            Murray, The Traveller Returned (PEAW)
                [NS: Robert Munford, The Patriots]

            Richards, “How to Write an American Play: Murray’s Traveller Returned and Its Source,” Early American Literature 33 (1998): 277-90.

7/10 TREATMENT due
Part 3: The American vision of American founding
            Barker, The Indian Princess (EAD)
                [NS:  John Augustus Stone, Metamora]
            Barnes, The Forest Princess (PEAW)
                [NS: John Brougham, Po-Ca-Hon-Tas]

7/12 Social Comedies: Women and War
Part 1: Popular Plays on the American Stage
            Farquhar, The Recruiting Officer
                [NS: William Wycherley, The Country Wife]
                [NS: Aphra Behn, The Rover]
            Centlivre, The Wonder! (CP)
                [NS: Centlivre, The Busybody]
                [NS: Mary Pix, The Beau Defeated]

Part 2: London Hits, New York Stage: 1787
            Sheridan, School for Scandal (CP)
                [NS: Sheridan, The Rivals]
            O’Keeffe, The Poor Soldier (CP)
                [NS: John Tobin, The Honey Moon]

7/19 Part 3: The American Conversion of Social Comedy
            Tyler, The Contrast (EAD)
                [NS: Mercy Otis Warren, The Group]
                [NS: William Dunlap, Darby’s Return]
            Mowatt, Fashion  (EAD)
                [NS:  Samuel Woodworth, The Forest Rose]
                [NS:  William Ioor, Independence]

            Richards, “Play and Earnest on the Postwar Stage,” Theater Enough, 265-79.
            John Evelev, “The Contrast: The Problem of Theatricality and Political and Social Crisis in Postrevolutionary America,” Early American Literature 31 (1996): 74-97.

7/24 Slavery, Race, and the Drama
Part 1: White Slavery
            Rowson, Slaves in Algiers (PEAW)
                [NS:  David Everett, Slaves in Barbary]
                 [NS:  Maria Pinckney, The Young Carolinians; or Americans in Algiers]
            Bird, The Gladiator  (EAD)
                [NS: Mercy Otis Warren, The Sack of Rome]
                [NS: Louisa McCord, Caius Gracchus]

            Paul Baepler, “Introduction,” White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives (U of Chicago P, 2000), 1-58.

7/26 Part 2: Popularizing Slavery, Transatlantic style
            Aiken, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (EAD)
                [NS: William Wells Brown, The Escape; or A Leap for Freedom]

Part 3: Tragic Mulatto
            Boucicault, The Octoroon (EAD)
                [NS: Shirley Brooks, The Creole]
                [NS: Boucicault, The Poor of New York]

8/2 FINAL EXAMINATION:  Bring bluebooks.