Time, Memory, and Meaning Making (DRA4309.01)

Sherry Kramer

May memory restore again and again
The smallest color of the smallest day:
Time is the school in which we learn,
Time is the fire in which we burn.
-Delmore Schwartz

The true territory that we create for the audience of a play or film is not the story we tell, or the characters we create, but the memories that the audience makes and processes about those stories and characters. These memories are the ultimate maze, the ultimate path the audience walks, and the map is not the same as the territory. We shape the audience’s memories, we distort them, we make them think some memories of the events they see are important, and some aren’t, but it might be the other way around. They use these memories to help them decide what has value, what to pay attention to, how to move forward toward meaning. They think they have made these memories, but we are in charge of how they have made them and how they shape the spectator’s gaze.

Ultimately, it is in the orchestration of the audience’s memory that we see the dramatist’s craft become art.

In timebound art we make meaning in time, out of memory. We control the order of our materials, because we want insight and meaning to happen at specific moments. And that means we are controlling time.

We will investigate the nature of perceived time in the timebound arts, the relationship between memory and meaning making, and the way that new discoveries about the way memory works are transforming our art forms. There will be robust reading and viewing assignments every week: plays, film, and texts about time and memory. Works will include Betrayal, Time’s Arrow, Saturn Returns, Memento, The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blade Runner, HERE (a graphic novel), Arrival, 12 Monkeys, and Rashomon. Short writing and creating assignments exploring how time can be used to manipulate the audience’s progression and memories and sense of value will be due throughout the semester, and each class member will be expected to invent a unique time signature and write a final timebound 30-90 minute work that uses their time signature to organize it.

Learning Outcomes:
Students will understand the difference between chronological and perceived time in a timebound work of art, and how to manipulate both to shape the audience's attention.

Students will be able to create structures that allow them fuller control of the way the audience's memories move them forward through a work of art.

Delivery Method: Remotely accessible
Prerequisites: Prerequisites: Permission of Instructor. Submit a paragraph of interest by May 4, 2021, along with a 10-page writing sample in any genre to skramer@bennington.edu. Prior playwriting classes are not required. You will be emailed by May 10 about acceptance to the class.
Course Level: 4000-level
Credits: 4
Th 1:40PM - 5:20PM (Full-term)
Maximum Enrollment: 12
Course Frequency: One time only

Categories: All courses , Drama , Remotely Accessible
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