As Chemers suggests (chapter 4), playwrights combine literary features, such as word choice, punctuation and spelling, imagery, personification, structure, and style, among others, with thematic elements, such as plot, setting, character, and action, in order to “manufacture meaning.” Your task in this assignment is to explain how a literary feature enhances, complicates, or raises questions about the thematic content of the play we have been discussing in class. Viewing the play as a text, this assignment serves as a first step toward answering the guiding question of the course, how does a written text become a living, shared moment in the performance space?
Audience: Directors and actors working with the play you are analyzing
Format: 1000 words (3-4 pages); MLA style
Advice: The best essays will describe the literary feature under analysis using specific evidence from the text to demonstrate how it contributes to the meaning of the play. In addition, the best essays will include a thesis that explains your main point about how the literary feature relates to the play’s thematic elements.
(FOR INSTRUCTORS ONLY)
Type: Analyze a single primary source to support an arguable thesis
Rationale: The purpose of this assignment is to give students practice selecting and arranging evidence in support of a claim. Students have read and discussed the play they will write about as a class, so their writing builds on previous work. The emphasis on the textual elements provides a foundation for later assignments that require students to combine textual, thematic and dramaturgical analysis.
- Outline chapter 4 from Chemers’s Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy and discuss in class the difference between literary features and thematic elements
- Make charts showing the literary features and thematic elements of the play read in common by the class and of their interrelationships
- In-class activities focused on writing detailed and engaging descriptions using evidence from the text
- In-class writing and peer review focused on identifying and crafting a thesis
- In-class activities applying Harvey’s elements to the text of the play