Culture Analysis

THTR 11a

You will research and write one analytical essay this quarter. The essay is to be submitted through Camino. Throughout the process of researching and writing your paper, please see me with any questions or to try out ideas. Your paper topic must be cleared with me in advance and you must choose a topic that is not associated with your Leading Class Discussion topic.


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Targeted Skills: use of secondary sources for research and analysis, thesis development, writing analysis in support of a thesis.
1. You must use at least three secondary sources not already in use in this course, as well as the original text of the play or plays being analyzed. If you use a play that we have not read in class, this may count as one secondary source. (no Wikipedia)
2. Please cite all of your source material according to MLA format.
3. After doing initial research, you are required to submit a working thesis statement.
4. Your essay is to be 4-5 pages. (You may include images etc. from your research, but this does not count in your final page count.)
5. You may make an appointment with me to go over any outline or rough draft up to one week before the due date and will be given ungraded feedback.

The following proposals present a broad scope and wide spectrum of potential ideas. It is your job to sort through your research, focus your topic, devise a working thesis and then structure your paper to support your thesis. Through your analysis and evidence, you will prove your thesis argument in your essay.

Option #1: Two Cultures
Choose two dramatic works, playwrights or performance types/techniques from two distinctly different cultures to analyze. Your analysis will compare and contrast one to the other, by looking at similarities and differences between the two. Ultimately, what conclusions can you draw about culture in comparing these side by side? Please use examples and textual evidence from the plays you are discussing in order to backup your analysis, but do not retell the story of the play. You may use a play (or plays) we have read or will read, though you must use research that goes beyond what we have studied in class. You also may choose plays or playwrights we have not studied.

Consider one or more of the following in your essay:
1. CULTURE: How do these works, authors or performance types reflect the culture from which they come? How are the values of each culture represented? What is the purpose and importance of each work/author/performance type to its culture? Who was the audience for each work/author/performance type and how might that reflect or speak to the people of each given culture? How do they speak to cultures today?
2. THEME: What themes are being represented in the works? How might these themes be important historically, in terms of the time and place the work is being done or in which the author is writing? How might the themes of each work be important to the people who the work is meant for?
3. STYLE/STRUCTURE: What style(s) is being used in the work (by the author or in the performance type)? How is it structured and how might that structure be important in a historical context or to convey meaning? What production elements or signifiers are being used?
4. BACKGROUND: If you are comparing two authors, examine family background, upbringing, education and training of each if known. Look at the scope of these authors’ work and how their work may have been influenced by historical events or the culture in which this author wrote.

Option #2: Another Dramatic Work
Choose a dramatic text that we have not read in class, either by one of the playwrights we have discussed or from one of the cultures and time periods we have looked at. After a close reading of the play, analyze how the play is representative of the time period and culture in which it was written. You may examine such things as subject matter, theme, theatrical devices within the structure of the play, language, character, plot, etc. You may also reference other work by that particular author which we have already read in class. Finally, try to draw contrasts between the time and place in which the play was written and the present day. Explain how the work is (or can be) relevant for us today. Assume your audience for the paper is familiar with the work. You should use examples and textual evidence from the play, but do not summarize the story. You job is to analyze it according to your specific and focused thesis.

If you choose this option, the new play you read counts as one of your three secondary sources for this assignment. If you need a suggestion of a dramatic work, please see me.

Option #3: Production History
After choosing one of the plays we have read or will read, research the play’s production history. Focus your research on actual landmark live productions or films, then compare and contrast these productions. You may also choose another play by one of the authors we encounter this quarter.

Choose at least three different live productions or films on which to focus in your paper. In comparing and contrasting various productions, your paper may examine one or several of the following:

1. TIME PERIOD: How have these specific productions/films been representative of their time and place?
2. MEANING: Have these productions/films altered the original intent or meaning of the play? If so, how?
3. THEME: In examining one or more themes from the play, have certain themes endured no matter when the play was produced or have they been brought into a different focus or been dropped because of the style of production or film? Has the time period in which the production/film was done affected the play’s theme?
4. STYLE: How do stylistic choices by the director, actors, designers etc. affect the play and the audience’s experience of it?
5. SETTING: How is the setting of the productions or films significant and/or relevant to the meaning of the play?

You may describe various production elements, actors and acting styles, venues, film devices, etc. (if pertinent), but your paper must be an analysis of the play and the significance of the productions/films you have chosen to research. You may need to do further research on the author in order to understand how a play has evolved (or devolved) in production from the original intention of the playwright. Do not summarize the play; assume your reader is familiar with the work. You will need to use direct quotes from the play itself to support your own analysis.

Option #4 –Your Idea
If you have another idea for an analytical essay that involves research and fits within the subject-matter of the course, pitch me an idea and we’ll see…For more information on Culture Analysis see this:

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