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TAPS 106 — From Absurd to AI: Drama for the Age of Uncertainty

Quarter: Winter
Day(s): Thursdays
Course Format: Live Online (About Formats)
Duration: 8 weeks
Date(s): Feb 1—Mar 21
Time: 7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Refund Deadline: Feb 3
Unit: 1
Grade Restriction: No letter grade
Tuition: $465
Instructor(s): Branislav Jakovljevic
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Open
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Live Online(About Formats)
7:00—8:50 pm (PT)
Feb 1—Mar 21
8 weeks
Refund Date
Feb 3
1 Unit
Grade Restriction
No letter grade
Branislav Jakovljevic
ACCESS THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Samuel Beckett’s genre-defining absurdist drama Waiting for Godot opened in 1953 in Paris, where Eugène Ionesco’s play The Chairs had opened a year earlier for an audience of three: Ionesco, his wife, and their 7-year-old daughter. By 1969, when Beckett won the Nobel Prize in Literature, Theatre of the Absurd had become a worldwide phenomenon, offering a new way of writing and staging plays that resonated way beyond Parisian avant-garde venues and mainstream European and American theaters.

Theatre of the Absurd was exceptional in its ability to capture deep changes in the post-World War II human condition. It was a post-Holocaust, post-colonial drama of the nuclear age, offering a range of theatrical responses to the new era of man-made systems that overwhelm our capacities of action and comprehension. We will explore authors ranging from Beckett and Ionesco to Americans Edward Albee and Ed Bullins, South African political playwright Athol Fugard, and Czech dissident-turned-president Václav Havel, to find unique dramatic strategies for humankind at the brink of self-annihilation. Resilience of the spirit is certainly one, exemplified in humor and laughter. Theatre of the Absurd, whose popularity sharply declined following the Cold War, has new relevance today. More than many other forms of theater, it can offer important lessons for this age of anxiety, climate change, pandemics, and the threat of AI-induced apocalypse.

Sara Hart Kimball Professor of the Humanities, Stanford

Branislav Jakovljević teaches in the Department of Theater & Performance Studies at Stanford, where he also served as chair. Prior to joining Stanford in 2006, he taught at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts and the University of Minnesota. He is the author of award-winning books and articles on theater and visual culture. He received a PhD in performance studies from NYU.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Samuel Beckett, Endgame and Act Without Words (ISBN 978-0802144393)
(Required) Jean Genet, The Screens (ISBN 978-0802151582)