Reading & Composition

Reading & Composition

Playing War: Performance, Film, Animation, and New Media in Militarized Cultures
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Katherine Mezur
134 Dwinelle

Artists across time and geographies and cultures have been driven to reflect on militarization and war: what is war for? What does war do? What does militarization do to the soldier, the civilian, the child, and us? In this course we will examine how the arts are deployed in militarized zones, times of war, and postwar memorializations. To do this, we will examine “performance” in diverse militarized cultures through theatre, animation, film, and new media. With the course focus on critical reading and analytic writing, we will study the media and performance examples with theory and contextual readings, which will be our tools for developing an argument, writing analysis, and thinking critically. Through these different media, visual and literary, popular and classic, from several different cultures and nations, we will consider how artists choose to deal with the many conditions of oppression, terrorism, and violence through their medium in their contexts. In particular we will consider how a nation or culture uses “documentary” and “dramatic” and “fantastic” media to re-enact, spectacularize, and/or document acts of war, militarization, protest, oppression, valorization, and censorship. Paying close attention to gender and race, we will explore and question the roles of art and artists who serve the state, those who turn their work into direct confrontations with the state, and those who reflect, criticize, or romanticize acts of war and military oppression. With which medium can we best approach the acts of militarization and destruction, from terrorism to attack, from invasion through occupation? Can art find a way to illuminate or make transparent the motives, the drives, and the deeper circumstances of war? Can we afford to give war and militarism expression in the arts?

Course Format
This is a discussion based course, which focuses on developing close reading and analytic writing skills. Students will participate in individual and pair presentations, group projects, and shared writing critiques. Our writing assignments will include short analytical essays based on each example case study from theatre, dance, animation, and film and the related contextual and theory articles, one longer research paper (with abstract, outline/research plan, working draft, and final paper), and one collaborative group project derived from visual, textual, and/or performative militarized acts and their aesthetics. Please note: This course will require several “out of class time” viewings of performances, films, and/or other events. These dates and times will be carefully chosen to fit all student schedules. There may be an extra cost for a ticket to a film or performance, which will be kept to a minimum.

Possible texts, films and performances:
Noh and Kabuki drama and performance: Atsumori, a warrior dance drama, and Seki no To, (The Barrier Gate). The Third Reich and Leni Riefenstahl’s films Triumph of the Will, and Olympia.  The play Leni by Sarah Greenman.
The Pacific War, The H-Bomb and Hiroshima, and Postwar Japan (Grave of the Fireflies, The Wind Rises, Barefoot Gen) Toshiki Okada’s Five days in March, a performance/play based on the “protests” against the US invasion of Iraq among Tokyo youth. Red Detachment of Women, a dance drama, one of eight model works (Yangbanxi) of the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
Viet Nam and Apocalypse Now and 2017 Documentary series.
Documentary dance drama by the National Theatre of Scotland: Black Watch by Gregory Burke on the war in Iraq.

Eclipsed, a play by Dani Gurira, on Liberian Women and Civil War.  Or the post-apartheid culture and plays in South Africa related to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission: Ubu and the Truth Commission, by Handspring Puppet Company, text by Jane Taylor and William Kentridge et al.
AR and VR: Hayoun Kwon’s Virtual Reality DMZ