terracotta tragic mask CLS 267:
terracotta tragic mask
Course Syllabus
Fall, 1999


Exploration of the unique nature and continuing significance of Greek tragedy and Greek theater in the drama of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.


  1. increased knowledge of cultural history through understanding and appreciation of the remarkable achievement of the classical Athenians in the field of tragic drama
  2. understanding of Greek tragedy as a form of aesthetic expression (in itself and in relation to other aesthetic forms)
  3. understanding of the form of Greek tragedy and the conventions of the ancient theatre as an illustration of the formal constraints artistic genre imposes on an individual artist
  4. ability to analyze, evaluate, and compare the tragic visions of Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides as an illustration of the way different artists, working within the same genre and traditions, can convey very individual and personal visions of life
  5. ability to analyze the presentation of women on the Greek tragic stage in the light of the social, political, and economic status of the actual women of classical Athens as an illustration of literature's relation to its social and cultural background
  6. understanding and appreciation of Greek tragedy in universal and contemporary terms as an illustration of the way in which art rises above the time and place which produced it
  7. development of the imagination through personal participation in the creative process




Thoughtful reading and analysis of all assigned plays; reading of several secondary articles. Active participation in class discussions of the plays. [all course objectives]

Attendance: The class meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:00-3:15; students should arrive promptly and attend class regularly. Any student with more than four unexcused absences will lose 3 points on the class participation portion of the grade for every subsequent class missed. All students are responsible for assignments and classwork missed due to absence, whether excused or unexcused.

Reflective Writing: Periodically through the semester students will be asked to write out their observations and reflections on specific issues related to the plays (discussion of artistic symbolism, of formal conventions or dramatic techniques, of theme and meaning). Sometimes these will be written out and handed in, but often they will be posted in our Speakeasy Studio. [objectives 3, 4, 5]

Papers: Making use of her reading, class discussion and reflective writing, each student will write one critical and analytic paper and one character study (to be written in conjunction with her creative project, described below). See instructions for Paper 1. [objectives 1, 3, 4, 5]

Creative Project: Each student will carry out a creative project involving the interpretation, through an artistic medium other than drama, of a major character from one of the assigned tragedies. She will select a character to serve as inspiration for the creation of another art form: drawing, painting, collage, clay sculpture, dance, song, poetry, short story, photographic series, web page, etc. She will present her work to the class on December 7, explaining orally how her creative piece relates to and interprets the tragic character who inspired it. The creative piece will be evaluated primarily on its relation to the character and on the imagination and creativity it displays rather than on the artistic skill of its creator. This will be accompanied by a written character study (approximately 3 typed pages, to be handed in on December 7), analyzing the character and his/her motivations, supported by direct references to dialogue, actions, and symbolism in the play. [objectives 2, 7]

Discussion of Modes of Performance: Throughout the semester, the class will view segments of several videotaped performances of Greek tragedies to illustrate different styles of theatrical presentations, ranging from an attempt to recreate the conditions of ancient theatre through the use of masks, chorus, dance, and ancient Greek language (subtitled in English) to a total reworking of an ancient tragedy using the idiom of American Black Gospel. Through discussion, the class will compare and evaluate these differing methods of presenting ancient tragedies. [objectives 1, 4, 6, 7]

Final Project: During finals week, each student will choose one of the plays studied in the course and take the role of producer of a contemporary performance of this play, assuming that money is no object (further instructions on this project). [objectives 1, 4, 6, 7]


The final grade will be based on class discussions, the reflective writing, and the two papers (55%), plus the two projects (45%).


Tuesdays & Thursdays: 10:50-11:50 am; other times by appointment
Castle 315N, ext. 5399
e-mail: bmcmanus@cnr.edu or bmcman@optonline.net
URL: http://www.cnr.edu/home/bmcmanus
September, 1999
The College of New Rochelle
CLS 267 Topics, Assignments, Notes